Monday, July 15, 2013

Turtle Humans?

Genetic engineering techniques began in the 1960s. When I think of genetic engineering, I always imagine a mad scientist "sucking" DNA fluid out of a test patient, mixing it in a cylinder with all sorts of nefarious chemicals and animal DNA and then "squirting" it back into the test patient wherein the patient would convulse and change into a half wolf or duck or something... ooh, maybe a Human Turtle? (My TMNT fantasy come true?)

Reality, unfortunately, is more pragmatic than the mind of AR.

There are over a dozen techniques involved in genetic engineering of the some 70k genes in the human genome. And none involve animal/human hybrids of my mind (that's public anywho).

Now, as you all may or may not know, in my latest Interstellar Intelligence Agency the concept of genetic engineering has reached its pinnacle with "species terraforming" that allow humans to live and thrive throughout the galaxy. (And, yes, I know terraforming is the change if land, but it seemed appropriate enough in this setting to steal from.)

The latest story, Brotherhood, will delve further into the genetic engineering science, so as a responsible SF writer, I researched details of genetic engineering to get terms and usage right.

Genetic engineering techniques can be anything from simply delivering a gene into a living cell (Gene Transfer) to finding a certain gene in a genome (Shotgun) to creating a gene from scratch (Gene Synthesis).

The various techniques are combined for complex genetic engineering applications, such as insulin development, human growth hormone, cystic fibrosis and genetic disease therapy.

Of course there is the scary side of genetic engineering like germ-line therapy and bio warfare. And there is the gray area of human cloning and species altering for interplanetary expansion. But, it is within genetic engineering that illness and diseases, such as cancer and HIV, will find cures.

And the truth is humans have been "genetically altering" for thousands of years. The Native Americans changed corn where it is almost unrecognizable today from its beginning state. And horticulturists have created whole new plant species with their work in cross-species slicing and binding. We've even unknowingly changed our own species by mate selection and self-designed environments over the generations.

Genetic engineering is just a more in your face and finesse approach to the subtler, slower natural process.

Like nuclear technology, there is a fine line between the benefits and danger of genetic engineering, but I'm willing to take the leap... at least for now and with the hopes it won't be too late if it goes too far.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, turtle humans... Would they win all the marathons? Sorry, I had to go there :-)