Real-Life Application of Genomics

24 posts

Flag Post

There was an interesting titbit in this week’s issue of Nature, which is a peer reviewed scientific journal. It said:

On 28th of June, the UK government announced that it will publish draft regulations later this year with a view to allowing and governing DNA transplants in in-vitro fertilization that could prevent certain heritable diseases.

The United Kingdom may become the first country to legalize the technique, which involves transplanting nuclear DNA from eggs or embryos with faulty mitochondria into healthy donor cells.

The regulations will be open to public consultation and debated by parliament in 2014


Source: Nature 4th July 2013, Vol 499. No 7456, page 10

Now, I realise this is not much information to go on, but the implications are profound: the ability to legally alter the DNA of your potential offspring in order that they not have the hereditary genetic conditions you yourself suffer from.

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the issue on the ethics of genetically engineering humans – which is what this comes down to. However, if you were presented with such an option, what traits and characteristics would you have excluded, and why?

Would it solely be limited to removing strands known to trigger severe disabilities, or would you engage in creative construction with your potential child-to-be to give them additional capabilities encoded at the genetic level that they otherwise would not have?

 
Flag Post

They’ve been discussing this for a really long time. I have always been for genetically modified offspring. Although, I always considered myself a forward thinker. I’ll wait for the conservatives or ethical moralists to weigh in where safety against mistakes outweigh the risk. The offspring won’t be perfect: no matter how carefully we try to give them our preferred traits. Last time I checked. Successful trials of separating the correct dominant and recessive combinations of traits was still quite tricky. Although, that was many years back, so I wonder what the young scientists of today have done so far.

I’m all for human improvement. Mistakes will be made, but we have to learn from those mistakes. Being afraid of messing up, shouldn’t stop or demotivate us from progress that may not be to everyone’s liking. If we stopped at more advanced tool use as early humans, we probably would never have left our hunter-gatherer ways, and eventually to the civilization we have now. Which I think is better, even with all the troubles we create.

Hoping that we give enough tools for the genetically modified kids, even those currently alive today, so that they can be successful. You can only dream, right?

 
Flag Post

which is what this comes down to

not really

traits and characteristics would you have excluded

additional capabilities

racist alert

 
Flag Post
My original questions:

However, if you were presented with such an option, what traits and characteristics would you have excluded (cut out from their genetic code and replaced), and why?

Would it solely be limited to removing strands known to trigger severe disabilities, or would you engage in creative construction with your potential child-to-be to give them additional capabilities encoded at the genetic level that they otherwise would not have?

Could you have a go at answering them please? I’m looking for discussion along those lines rather than the general statement you gave. Thanks for it, but that’s been done to death.

 
Flag Post
Originally posted by vikaTae:
My original questions:

However, if you were presented with such an option, what traits and characteristics would you have excluded (cut out from their genetic code and replaced), and why?

Would it solely be limited to removing strands known to trigger severe disabilities, or would you engage in creative construction with your potential child-to-be to give them additional capabilities encoded at the genetic level that they otherwise would not have?

Could you please answer my opinionated questions? I’m looking for discussion stemming from the viewpoint I preset rather than discussing the topic at an unbiased level.

No.

 
Flag Post

The simple answer. If it will stop disability from manifesting itself in the individual, then yes.
Who wouldn’t want healthy human beings over disabled individuals who can’t keep up with the world we have created.
I’m not sure we have all the scientific facts, yet, on what traits are the best for human progress. We have a lot of scientific information, but ascribing more value to one set of scientific lines of inquiry without sufficient time for people to correctly disprove them after rigorous experimentation and insight might be jumping the gun.

Genetics is still very young. But we need to keep working out the kinks first before we jump the gun. Some of what we do in the scientific community may prove results in the short term, but don’t stay stable for long term results. I actually am a little cautious in that aspect, but give something maybe 10 years, and having rigorous scrutiny applied.
Then we can move to the next stage of development and implementation.

Maybe I don’t agree with you that there are absolute traits for each gene, and that they have small variations that manifest themselves differently than what we are normally aware of. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Even if human trials don’t come out the way we want them to. We accept those that mutate into disability after all. Why not at least try for humans.

Again, I want to tell you that I am in the minority. Most people have a high moral penchant. Not necessarily wrong, but you have to convince people that what you are doing is not morally wrong. For business you have to produce results. Anything less is unacceptable. So if you are trying to get a baseline on what people want: ask the conservatives.

 
Flag Post
Originally posted by Draconavin:

The simple answer. If it will stop disability from manifesting itself in the individual, then yes.
Who wouldn’t want healthy human beings over disabled individuals who can’t keep up with the world we have created.
I’m not sure we have all the scientific facts, yet, on what traits are the best for human progress.

Yea, that’s why I’m asking which traits each individual would see as undesirable and wish to be stripped from their young with the ability there. There’s not going to be a consensus, and it might prove illuminating to see what traits different people perceive as disabling.

Further to that, might you as a parent wish to go the other way? Rather than just correcting disability, the potential is there to increase intellect or memory, or increase the length and musculature of the legs. A whole host of body design elements being genetic in nature.

Maybe I don’t agree with you that there are absolute traits for each gene, and that they have small variations that manifest themselves differently than what we are normally aware of.

They don’t work like that anyway. There’s no one control gene for anything. Rather they’re lines of programming code, each line affecting what’s been laid down by the lines before it, and changing in effect based on what the previous lines in its section were.

So the whole process isn’t removing individual genes, but rather whole sections of programming – the contents of entire methods / functions – and replacing those contents with other code that gives very different instructions.

Ignoring the specifics here, as in which code does exactly what, the general concept is always the same. The layout and makeup of the physical body is governed by what the code says. Change the code and you change the physical body that is the eventual result. So, assuming you have access to afacility which can identify what the code is doing, and which sections were to be removed, what changes would you make, assuming the whole field is open?

Who wouldn’t want healthy human beings over disabled individuals who can’t keep up with the world we have created.

Sometimes the parents like their children to have the same perception differences they have; lets them experience the world from the same point of view.

We can see this in the classic example of the deaf community that fights the notion of deafness as a disability to be treated or cured. In such instances, the parents will often fight against the notion that a newborn who is deaf needs to be medically treated to give them the ability to hear, because by doing so this individual is then not a part of the same ethnic community as their parents – they are not all deaf together.

So not everything you and I would consider to be a disability would be considered a disability by all parents. In a case based on the above, they might choose to have the code for blindness or CP removed from the fetus, but might actually choose to have a code for a defective eardrum to be implanted to ensure the child is deaf, and fits in better with their own definition of humanity.

 
Flag Post

Yes, within disability they code for strengths as well.
The problem is what might create a weakness in one set will create a strength in another.
Separating the nature through human provocation has been tough to do, but I haven’t seen a consistent method, as of yet.

Really, society dictates most peoples’ choices for the type of children they want. Parents want their kids to be successful, so they will give them the most advantages possible. Personally, I would give them all the athletic, and intellectual abilities possible to perform at their peak performance while also allowing them to have greater control over their behavior. It’s more of a dream because the science isn’t there yet, and scientists are still struggling with creating idealized humans, as well as being accepting of the variety of humans at the same time, so as to appease everyone.

In the case, of the deaf culture or even to a more controversial stance against little people. “Curing” them hits to a very emotional heart string. They want to preserve their culture. They find it unique and worthy of protection. They find happiness in being who they are. After much fought discrimination, those that find success, become advocates of their lifestyles, and those like them. Those that don’t find success while being their natural self: look for an escape. Either through medical or other means.

 
Flag Post

I find myself in the same camp of Draco. I think genetic tinkering will potentially be the crucible of the human race. For all the potential harm, we must march onwards.

As for the specifics, beyond the platitudes of better, stronger, faster, smarter. Straight, appropriate teeth. Modern technology and society has mitigated death due to dental problems and they are running prolific. Keen eyesight, again no one is dying of near sightedness anymore and it is muddying up the gene pool.

Although, it’s funny. In some ways I flinch at removing the eyesight problems. It goes back to identity based around disabilities and the consequences of them. I was very forcefully introverted as a kid because I couldn’t see much around me, the things that were literally close at hand became my passions. Reading, writing, self education, the arts, anything that I could keep within arms reach.

 
Flag Post

This would only be for maternal diseases I’m assuming. Am I correct?

 
Flag Post
Originally posted by FullMeasureZam:

This would only be for maternal diseases I’m assuming. Am I correct?

As usual, you’re not even on the same planet as the rest of the thread. Go back, read the OP again, and try again. You might like to google what genetics are, since from this comment it is clear you do not understand the concept.

 
Flag Post

Doitdoitdoitdoitdoitdoitdoit
DO EET

The possibility of eradicating genetic issues such as Huntington’s syndrome, some forms of cancer, autism, and whatever other problems there are plaguing society over the course of a couple generations is a scenario where society as a whole benefits greatly. I’m also for allowing people to tweak out traits that they consider weaknesses in themselves for their kids sake as well. I mean, you’re already messing with the DNA, may as well go all in.

 
Flag Post

Autism’s a tricky one. Personally I wouldn’t eradicate it. I can see how many would, as it is a radical depature in the thought process from the middle of the curve. But, it does have its place, again as a radically different way of approaching the world, and thus a very probable way to come to conclusions the rest of us don’t look at.

Of course those conclusions are invalid as often as not, but because autism is a spectrum disorder, you’re not always going to have such a sharp disassociation from reality, and I have wondered if a smiggin of the mental single-mindedness it brings as one of its core traits might be useful.

I’m also for allowing people to tweak out traits that they consider weaknesses in themselves for their kids sake as well.

Could you give an example please? I’m thinking things like freckles, heterochromia, skin that burns easily in the sun. But not sure if you’re thinking something more along the lines of smoothing out a heavily visually orientated memory, or even turning curly hair straight.

 
Flag Post
Could you give an example please? I’m thinking things like freckles, heterochromia, skin that burns easily in the sun. But not sure if you’re thinking something more along the lines of smoothing out a heavily visually orientated memory, or even turning curly hair straight.

Anything, really. I mean, the sky’s the limit as to what kind of person you want to pop out of your body. Whether this applies to cosmetics or simply issues involving their bodies, I would leave up to the people who are getting the altercations done.

Autism’s a tricky one. Personally I wouldn’t eradicate it. I can see how many would, as it is a radical depature in the thought process from the middle of the curve. But, it does have its place, again as a radically different way of approaching the world, and thus a very probable way to come to conclusions the rest of us don’t look at.

Ahh, shit, did I say autism? I meant Down’s. I was thinking since Down’s Syndrome involves a third chromosome on chromosome 21, preventing would seem relatively easy. Now, as to the brilliance of those with mental disorders, I won’t argue with you on that, however, I, personally, would rather live life without any mental health issues than be incredibly brilliant.

 
Flag Post

Anything, really. I mean, the sky’s the limit as to what kind of person you want to pop out of your body.

Heh. Theoretically, we could go even further. It doesn’t have to be a person. That’s much wilder alteration on the level of a complete bespoke genome, but you could actually use the basic method for device manufacturing. Yes, the concept is absolutely horrid, but doable: Grow inside your womb an organic-based appliance. An organics-based fuel intake system, disposal system, repair and internal defence systems and control circuitry.

Write the genome from scratch describing how its systems are laid out, and pursuade the (un/lucky?) owner of the womb to grow it to term.

I think that’s freakier than either Ungeziefer or yourself were thinking of, but it falls within the ’sky’s the limit’ umbrella of what is actually feasible. Long, long term, and not from this legislation, we could quite plausibly manufacture organically an entire civilisation’s infrastructure that way.

Whether this applies to cosmetics or simply issues involving their bodies, I would leave up to the people who are getting the altercations done.

I can agree with this statement 100%. Their body, their choice. It is only when it actually becoms a separate body with its own mind, that the new individual has to decide if they like what they are, or wish to change it.

Ahh, shit, did I say autism? I meant Down’s.

Easy enough mistake to make if you’ve been reading the words of someone who comes across as heavily autistic prior to creating a post in this thread. It would be on the tip of your tongue unintentionally. We’ve all done that.

Another I’d love to see gone is an umbrella group called leukodystrophies. No, its not a word I made up. They’re a group of conditions whereby the genetic coding governing the production of myelin sheaths is badly coded. The sheaths don’t repair themselves properly over time, and there’s no treatment that stops the degeneration rather than slowing it.

Loss of control over their own brain, their muscles, even their autonomous functions are all possible as the myelin breaks down and their nervous system literally short circuits with the bare ‘wires’, the unmyelinated neurons touching each other.

I can personally think of nothing worse to experience than feeling your own mind slipping out of your control, with good periods and bad periods, the bad slowly outnumbering the good. Brrrrr. I’ll be glad to see them go.

 
Flag Post

The United Kingdom may become the first country to legalize the technique, which involves transplanting nuclear DNA from eggs or embryos with faulty mitochondria into healthy donor cells.

Would this not just prevent diseases associated with the faulty mitrochondria?

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the issue on the ethics of genetically engineering humans – which is what this comes down to. However, if you were presented with such an option, what traits and characteristics would you have excluded, and why?

Programmed cell death, ‘immortal’ children sounds kind of fun. That is our ultimate goal after all.

 
Flag Post
Would this not just prevent diseases associated with the faulty mitrochondria?

No. The cells with faulty mitrochondria are the ones being used as source material for the usable DNA.

The donor cells are the ones the parents have donated that are going to be fused together for in-vitro implantation. As such they’re the ones that are going to be used to make the fetus.

Sorry for not making that more clear.

Programmed cell death, ‘immortal’ children sounds kind of fun. That is our ultimate goal after all.

You know, I never even thought about recoding telomere length, or encoding an ability for the telomeres to continually self-repair. Programmed immortality.

You’re right, that would be a rather handy feature if pulled off correctly.

 
Flag Post

I still find the most immediate and potentially frightening aspect of our sky’s the limit genetic engineering will be the social/mental sphere.

We are programmed with a universal, instinctual history. A relationship to pain, to pleasure, to groups, to food, to competition, and so on. Our entire history of animal behavior is the foundation, the constant, upon which we have interacted.

The notion of our individuality could quite readily be eradicated. We could start creating people not just of a specific physical stripe, but of mental ones too. With control over the internal mechanisms of punishment/reward we could craft a slave class, a soldier class, total obedience or any sort of thing.

 
Flag Post

To be honest Ung, I’d have thought the possibility of a slave class would really appeal to you based on previous conversations we have had. But yes, it would be quite possible to radically re-engineer the scope of a future fetus’ brain, anywhere from current abilities plus unknown limits, to no more than the controlling brain of an organic vacuum cleaner running on pure instinct alone, or anywhere in-between.

What is this ‘universal, instinctual history’ you refer to, please? I’ve not come across anything like it. There’s no hive-mind mentality we’re born with, and no evidence of a species-wide central subconsciousness.

Our pleasure/pain relationships are bourne out of specific brain structures that control and regulate the pleasure/pain response. Take the codes away that form those, and yes, that individual would react to neither pleasure nor pain. They would literally be foreign concepts. Likewise introduce new structures that interpret different signals as pleasurable or painful and you would create a whole new type of pleasure or behavior control.

 
Flag Post

To be honest Ung, I’d have thought the possibility of a slave class would really appeal to you based on previous conversations we have had.

Hehe, I wasn’t originally endorsing the idea, just considering the possibilities. Although, looking at it. These wouldn’t be ‘people’ forced into slavery. They’d be a creature bred, constructed for it, integrally. Obedience, non identity, all of that could please them immensely. As slaves they could live pleasurable, content lives in fulfillment of their construction with no aspirations beyond that. I daresay it could be morally justifiable, if not advantageous.

What is this ‘universal, instinctual history’ you refer to, please? I’ve not come across anything like it. There’s no hive-mind mentality we’re born with, and no evidence of a species-wide central subconsciousness.

A couple billion years of common evolutionary background at work in the construction of our brain. Not anything psychic or metaphysical, just the commonality of our roots. One person is much like another, as a whole human mass we are pretty similar. At the more ornate we have aspects we see and recognize in the animal kingdom, say aggression over territory or mates. Nesting instincts and so on. On the simpler side, we get hungry and suffer for it, or cold, ect. real nuts and bolts stuff.

Our pleasure/pain relationships are bourne out of specific brain structures that control and regulate the pleasure/pain response. Take the codes away that form those, and yes, that individual would react to neither pleasure nor pain. They would literally be foreign concepts. Likewise introduce new structures that interpret different signals as pleasurable or painful and you would create a whole new type of pleasure or behavior control.

Exactly. Beyond the ‘dont put your hand in a fire, it hurts’ there are the finer things, like a sense of self satisfaction, or say moral self disgust, and so on. By seizing the handles of pleasure and pain we are seizing behavior control. Hypothetically the mere notion of aggression or violence could becoming sickening and painful beyond measure.

 
Flag Post
Originally posted by vikaTae:
Originally posted by FullMeasureZam:

This would only be for maternal diseases I’m assuming. Am I correct?

As usual, you’re not even on the same planet as the rest of the thread. Go back, read the OP again, and try again. You might like to google what genetics are, since from this comment it is clear you do not understand the concept.

from the OP

The United Kingdom may become the first country to legalize the technique, which involves transplanting nuclear DNA from eggs or embryos with faulty mitochondria into healthy donor cells.

It wasn’t exactly clear if this was before or after fertilization at first. Now I see the word “embryos”.

My mistake comrade.

 
Flag Post

Messing with genes is playing god.

Anyone who supports this is going against His will and should be stoned to death.

 
Flag Post

Hehe, I wasn’t originally endorsing the idea, just considering the possibilities. Although, looking at it. These wouldn’t be ‘people’ forced into slavery. They’d be a creature bred, constructed for it, integrally. Obedience, non identity, all of that could please them immensely. As slaves they could live pleasurable, content lives in fulfillment of their construction with no aspirations beyond that. I daresay it could be morally justifiable, if not advantageous.

It is basically the same way as we are headed with several branches of robotics including care assistants for the elderly or infirm – they exist to serve. So there would from an ethical standpoint, be no difference between doing that with an artificial mind constructed through inorganic parts, and an artificial mind assembled through genetic coding.

In both cases you have the exact same thing functionally, save running on a different substrate, and making sure they actually enjoy serving, As you say, they would have no aspirations beyond looking after their charge to the best of their ability, hardwired into their brains at the most fundamental level. Personal choice doesn’t come into it, any more than personal choice comes into regulating how visual information is processed once it leaves the eye.

A couple billion years of common evolutionary background at work in the construction of our brain. Not anything psychic or metaphysical, just the commonality of our roots. One person is much like another, as a whole human mass we are pretty similar. At the more ornate we have aspects we see and recognize in the animal kingdom, say aggression over territory or mates. Nesting instincts and so on. On the simpler side, we get hungry and suffer for it, or cold, ect. real nuts and bolts stuff.

I understand now, thank you. I thought you were trying to describe some linked moral core, or hardwired system of beliefs, but you’re not. You’re describing the fact that our brains are remarkably similar in basic wiring across individuals. Same as how most people are born with two arms, two legs, two hands, two feet, a nose, a mouth, two eyes et cetera in the same rough configuration, so their brains are assembled likewise, split into the same rough areas, with the same structures and to a greater extent, the same wiring at a fundamental level, right throughout.

Same basic instincts, reflexes, basic psychology, activation pattern reaction to stress, et cetera.

By seizing the handles of pleasure and pain we are seizing behavior control.

Yes, at an absolute level. But of course it goes deeper than that. Take the fight or flight response as a simple example. We have it because genetically the control circuitry that drives this survival response is encoded into the program that then assembles our brains.

We have it because our genetics say we need it. Take that code out of the program, and the individual literally will not have a fight-or-flight response. No adrenalin rush upon danger or upon anger. It would fundamentally change the entire way they relate to our society, without even touching the pleasure/pain response one iota.

Hypothetically the mere notion of aggression or violence could becoming sickening and painful beyond measure.

Same hypothetical, the entire notion of violence could literally not occur to these individuals, as they don’t at any level beyond observation in others, understand what anger is. They are incapable of feeling the emotion, of internalising it. Without any concept of anger, aggression is simply not going to occur.

Again, there are many, many ways to achieve these same goals, without touching pleasure / pain conditioning. Heck, we could even strip the pleasure/pain response out of the brain entirely. It would be interesting as all heck to see what motivates an individual with no concept of punishment or reward, but THAT one is definitely entering immoral territory if you do it with an otherwise fully functional brain. That is the sort of experiment we would ethically need to test first on a paired down mind, to ensure it does not have devastating cognitive effects.

No point in deliberately introducing new genetic disabilities to otherwise sentient, self-aware individuals, using a tech designed to remove genetic disability. That I suspect, would truly be the definition of monsterous.

 
Flag Post

We have it because our genetics say we need it. Take that code out of the program, and the individual literally will not have a fight-or-flight response. No adrenalin rush upon danger or upon anger. It would fundamentally change the entire way they relate to our society, without even touching the pleasure/pain response one iota.

Yes exactly :D Exactly stuff like that. Small changes could precipitate massive, massive alterations at the social level. It would be an entire cultural departure point. The human condition would become plastic, ultimately really, inhuman. We’d just have conditions.

The physical frame is but a tool, no matter how much we extend our capabilities, it’s really just an empowerment of out nature. But through the mind we have the ability to define our own natures. This harkens back to my anxiety with AI’s we’ve talked about. We could hypothetically design them explicitly as human and keep their separate nature a secret, but alternatively their nature is a blank slate, something we decide, something quite potentially inhuman. Again, not inherently bad, potentially quite superior, but certainly ‘other’.