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SenGrisane

Genetics

I'd like to ramble about genetics for a bit today and how big the chances are of human/animal hybrids (which some of you might be interested in).
Some people have a rather simple grasp of what is going on in the body (especially hollywood :P) and even those that are better at biology, often miss that the constant progress in genetics only results in us discovering (again and again) that it is even more complicated than we suspected. I'll try to explain the whole system in layers, just like I dived further and further into the matter during education.

This is not supposed to be a detailed explanation, I merely want to give people a sense of the scope of the whole thing. If you want to know more details just ask good old Wikipedia. It is very good on this stuff (too many bored students with internet access during lectures I guess ^^).
People familiar with this matter will much likely find it overly simplified. This is not a scientific lecture. It is to entertain and maybe grab interest to read on.

Layer 1:
Every living being is composed of cells. Each cell has a core (nucleus) that contains the genetic code of that lifeform (DNA). Each cell contains the same code (which makes things like DNA finger printing possible). While the DNA is the blueprint, the proteins/enzymes are the workers that execute the plan.

Layer 2:
DNA contains the carriers of the genetic information, the nucleotides. The nucleotides are mounted on a "spine", which results in the whole DNA to look like a twisted ladder (at least in the usual graphical depiction). There are 4 types of nucleotides: A, C, G, and T (often shown as colored rods in diagrams).
Three nucleotides together are a unit and “code” for one amino acid. One such a unit is called triplet.
Proteins are a long string of amino acids. There are only 21 amino acids (in humans), but 64 combinations you can make with DNA triplets (4³). That means there is redundancy in the coding (also you need a “start” and a “stop” signal). If you have a DNA strand you can tell which amino acid sequence it will produce. But if you have an amino acid sequence you can’t say exactly how the DNA strand looked.

Layer 3:
The DNA does not directly produce proteins. It is much too large for that (and "trapped" inside the nucleus). Instead the cell makes little copies of the relevant parts it needs at the moment. Those little copies are called RNA and can leave the nucleus.
RNA is almost the same as DNA, just with some minor changes. The RNA is then read (by a protein of course ^^) and translated into an amino acid sequence, which in the end will result in a new protein. A protein is not a flat strand though, but more a ball of yarn with magnets. Some parts attract each other, while other parts push each other away. The result is that the protein folds and coils itself into its final shape automatically as it is created (kinda like a phone cord automatically forms these little twisty things on its own... do you even know what a telephone with an actual cord is?).

So far it does sound simple enough. You know what the code is to make a protein and you know what some proteins do. Nowadays you also have tools that allow you create a DNA sequence of your liking (usually you'd just order your DNA online, from a company specializing on creating any DNA sequence you specify... much easier for you). You also have tools that allow you to copy/paste that artificial DNA into the cell's DNA almost exactly as you want (might take a while and lots of tries, but it’s doable).
The whole genetic code of humans has been analyzed (of several humans actually) and is available for everyone to download.

So we have to plan and we have the tools… what is stopping us from playing god?

Well as research dug deeper it found out that the DNA sequence alone does not mean squat. Don’t get me wrong, the DNA means a lot, but it’s not enough. A fully assembled car that is missing just the fuel is 99,9999% complete but won’t move an inch no matter what you do. Sure you can honk the horn, you can activate the wiper and listen to music with the radio, but actual driving is not possible.

Nature is a bitch and has prepared a wonderfully complex puzzle for us to solve.

Layer 4:
DNA contains crapload of waste. Stuff it doesn’t need… ever (evolution leftovers if you will). This stuff is cut out when the RNA is created. And like the snippets of a data file on a hard drive it can be all over the place (the DNA sadly has no defragmentation option).

To put analogy in your head: Imagine yourself watching a hard drive from above, writing in that incredible speed, zig-zagging over the whole surface, writing who knows what onto the hard disk. And you wanna decipher the contents from mere observation. Scientists with lots of funding have a magnifying glass to watch :3

So the nucleotide sequence your shiny million dollar sequencer spit out does not have anything to do with of the proteins you found (it might, if you are lucky… but those are proteins that were identified first)

Layer 5:
Let’s say you identified the DNA, the RNA and you know the protein that is made. But strangely it does not look like it should. Sometimes there are some extra amino acids that are not present in the code, other times the protein looks so totally different you wonder, if you did you job right. And the explanation? Proteins that change other proteins.

So you have your DNA. Proteins come and translate it to RNA. Then more proteins come and translate it into an amino acid sequence aka new protein (protein 1). Then another protein (protein 2) is created using a totally different part of the DNA in the same way. And then protein 2, the bastard, comes and modifies protein 1. It may add a few things here, or snip off parts there, make new connections in the structure or break them, etc… tons of possibilities.

This can also happen several times, until protein 1 has the end form that fullfills a function in the cell.

Sounds complicated? But wait. It gets even better. There are even more parameters to consider. Let’s just call them “handicaps”. This list is not complete (I have much likely forgotten many and it has been years since I left school. the probably found some more in the meantime ;3)

Speed:
The speed with which a protein is made can affect its function. So if you conduct experiments under ideal circumstances in the lab the protein might not be working simply because the reaction was too fast or too slow (imagine again a string of yarn with magnets. If you unwind it slowly, the first magnet will connect to the second magnet as soon as it is “available”. Unwind very fast and there might be several magnets available for the first magnet to connect to, which will alter the structure of the whole thing.

Genetic code “changes” during lifetime:
How you live can change which parts of your DNA are active. I heard the following story in school from a professor. I haven’t found a paper on the net to verify it, but I have little reason to disbelieve him.
After WWII, the people Germany had a longer period with insufficient food. So the body activated dormant parts in the DNA that made digestion more efficient. The adults from that time even inherited this information to their children, which resulted in several generations that could gain weight more easily.

Nucleotid adultery:
Sometimes nucleotides are unfaithful to their partner and may pair up with a nucleotid they are not compatible with. You bastards!

Nucleotid masturbation:
If you build an artificial RNA you have to watch out not to make the thing compatible with itself, or it will fold together and be useless. Easiest example is a strand like this: GGGGGGGGGGGGGCCCCCCCCCCCC. G and C are pairs and this strand will form a loop with itself for sure.
Sometimes nature does this on purpose though and the loop forming is part of the proper process, so... <.<

Summary:
Nature has locked the secrets of the genes behind dozens of seals. And whenever a seal is unlocked two new seals appear. Some day humans might have the ability to alter the human on purpose. But that day won't come for a very long time. So the chances are pretty much zero for a transformation within your lifetime (even if you get 100 years old).

Genetic manipulation is used at the moment mostly to alter the simplest of lifeforms (single cell lifeforms like yeast or bacteria). Manipulation of animals and plants has been done, but the changes are minimal and mostly experimental.

If you have questions don't hesitate to ask. :3
Viewed: 102 times
Added: 6 years, 9 months ago
 
wolfman1214
6 years, 9 months ago
Good thing it will take a long time.

I don't want zombified mutant biker rapists on motorcycles to cause the apocalypse.
wolfman1214
6 years, 9 months ago
(I'll be honest I went past the first section to the TL;DR part.)
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
That's okay ^^

And it is much easier to make a virus to kill all humans than mutant zombie bikers. So don't worry. ^^
wolfman1214
6 years, 9 months ago
That's the boring way to kill everyone though.
Kiffin
6 years, 9 months ago
Sad Puca
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Aliens would change anything anyway ;3
Kiffin
6 years, 9 months ago
Stands on my Roof with a "LAND HERE" sign
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Stands next to you a sign: "IN HER REAR!"
KNIFE
6 years, 9 months ago
I like this. It seems very well thought out and very
well written. And it helped me get a grasp of some
of the intricacies of what we would need to make
 the beings we love to play around with on IB.
All in all a very excellent read. :D *tips hat*
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Thank you. ^^
I didn't expect to get comments that fast. :P

And I am glad that it helped you :3
Alfador
6 years, 9 months ago
Yes, I know what a phone cord is. I'm not THAT young. And even on the off chance I were, and hadn't learned how to detangle cords where the coil gets kinked to spiral in two different directions back in elementary school, there would still be such corded phones in the office where I work and I would thus know them from there.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
It was meant as a joke ^^
The fandom is not that young :P
Circeus
6 years, 9 months ago
Actually, there is arguably a good evolutionary reason for "garbage": if the code for a gene has, say 1600 pairs of nucelotide, of which 500 are parts of introns (the garbage sections that are removed during the protein synthesis process), that means a random mutation has about 31% less chance of happening in the garbage rather than actually affecting the protein. It's passive genetic defense.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
But if each nucleotid has a chance of mutation that chance does not change just because you have more nucleotids. But it is true if agressive forces from outside "attack" the DNA ^^
Circeus
6 years, 9 months ago
If that single nucleotide is less likely to affect the protein (i.e. because it's in an intron), then yes, it's a protection.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Um. Wait. Maybe I understood you wrong.

Let's say each nucleotid has a 1% chance of mutation. And we have 1000 nucleotids. That means 10 of them will be mutated.
Now we add introns and raise the number of nucleotids to 3000. We have 30 mutations now. And still 10 of them are in the extron region.

How does this help? More introns just mean more mutation in total.
Cloud006
6 years, 9 months ago
Ok I'm about to sound dumb.
Damn your smart.

I never looked at Genetics like this.
it is so deep and very well said.

Do you have a PHD in this fild??
I have watch 3 an a 1/2 hour long show oh PBS and the like and they where not this good.
you my friend just won the internet.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
I only have one title and that is an engineer (for chemistry). But I have begun working in the pharmacy sector and worked with DNA and proteins which of course taught me a lot. My very first job after college was a firm that could create DNA strands per your order (among other things). My job in that firm was to analyse tiny mutations on DNA to estimate the risk for certain cancer types (sounds more complicated than it was... I was merely a lab worker using the methods developed already).

I have started an additional "advanced" school later (I don't know the term in English, but they use the Bachelor/Master system nowadays), but gave up when I had to write my thesis. I had chosen Bioinformatics as specialisation and found out I suck as programmer <.< and my professor for the thesis was rather unhelpfull too.
But I nevertheless learned a lot in that school and do not regret visiting it.

Thanks that you liked my journal. ^^
The problem with such things like PBS often is, that they ask a professional about this stuff and then hire people who are good at doing fancy things for TV. The get the information and then digest it into something that they thing will be most interesting. Not into what is most important. And in science you often have the problem that, if you change a tiny detail that seems unimportant to someone not familiar with the subject, in reality it is a huge difference.

For example, any Biology major would strangle me if I told him DNA and RNA are the same except for "minor unimportant details".
Cloud006
6 years, 9 months ago
That is so true PBS dos like to cut shit out just to make the show "batter". :(

Sorry to hear about your schooling.
That sucks.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
It's okay. Don't worry about it. I got a good, well paying job ;3
Cloud006
6 years, 9 months ago
Well that's good.

I wish my job was well paying.
I only get minimum.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Sorry to hear that.
Cloud006
6 years, 9 months ago
Thanks.
But it is not that bad.
And I'm very happy just to have a job right now.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Okay. But it is sad you have to glad to simply have a job nowadays.
Cloud006
6 years, 9 months ago
True.
It is sad.
But what can you do??
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
You could go self-employed. But that is a high risk as well.
And a lot of work.
Cloud006
6 years, 9 months ago
I don't have the balls or mind for it.
if i could find a easy way I'd love ti give it a try.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
If it was so easy everyone would do it ^^
Cloud006
6 years, 9 months ago
you can say that again!
Joseph
6 years, 9 months ago
Ahh genetics, good analogies there, will help me in explaining things to friends better, thanks!

In the middle of my second year uni exams on this subject (not making furry monsters though, but did do a lab class where we did baaad things to mice.) I'm so glad British bachelor degrees are only 3 years, means I can start my PhD earlier!

I kinda disagree with your timescales though, I'm currently helping some of my professors with research into human organ culture (i.e. brains in vats) and even though it's no where near what most of us on this website would like to happen, let's say that I have a good feeling that the next 10-20 years in genetics are going to get VERY cool. (Partly why I'm devoting my life to its study.)
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Oh the field of genetics will produce a lot of very interesting stuff. The methods are getting better quickly. And the knowlege is growing rapidly as well.
The long, long timescale I meant is for an already existing human, to be transformed on macroscopic and microscopic level into a new form (while keeping the brain intact preferably ^^).
I could imagine seeing in my lifetime the creation of a hybrid with distinct features of different species (not just a cow that gives milk with anti-bodies in it or something like the do now), if the lawmakers don't shoot it down.
But those would start from an egg cell and not a full grown lifeform.
Rakaziel
6 years, 9 months ago
I agree with you on genetics but depending on what you want in the end there are other ways, mainly tissue engineering, cybernetics and chimerism.

Tissue engineering can be used to rebuild your body but can only install types of cells it already has (digitigrade legs would work, hooves would be based on the cells that produce your toenails but it starts getting difficult by the point you want other colors or better senses)

Cybernetics would cover parts your brain has not the processing facilities for (like prehensile tails and wings), either by making them fully mechanical and only covered in vat-grown skin (which includes nerves so sense of touch and temperature would be no problem, albeit blood circulation may require additonal blood vessels to be implanted) or making them biological and using computer controlled artificial nerves. It would also require brain implants to comfortably operate the computer. Given the plasticity of the brain, with a (large) bit of luck the facilities could also be developed by the brain itself after using enough hypnosis to convince it the body it belongs to actually has wings. Any recovery methods from therapy after paralysis from strokes could also be used here.

The really interesting part would be chimerism. Some people absorb a sibling while they are developing in the womb and still carry parts of them in their bodies, without the sibling getting attacked by the immune system. Researching how this works could allow to adapt the immune system to foregin genetic material - from organ transplants from other people without having to take immune suppressants to organ transplants from other species that were grown in the vat. From original donkey fur to heavily modifed parts like a dragon fire breath based on the bombard beetle.

While genetic engineering has the greatest potential in the long term other ways may earlier yield usable results in the short term.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
It could yield desired results, but getting turned into a cyborg is not what I was talking about in my journal ;3

And just because you may be able to grow new body parts in a vat, that the body does not repell, attaching totally different (or additional) body parts would require totally new nerves from the brain to the body part... and years of training with it.
AlexReynard
6 years, 9 months ago
Can't we just fuck animals and breed their hybrid babies?
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Thjis isn't the Star Trek universe where everything can interbreed XD

Sorry ^^
AlexReynard
6 years, 9 months ago
Well why NOT!? Science needs to get on this right away. I want to fuck a sandwich and then give birth to a never-ending supply of little sandwiches.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Sorry, can't work. There is not enough place on the sandwich for a proper vagina. ^^
AlexReynard
6 years, 9 months ago
You're obviously using the wrong bread.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
Our bread is smaller ^^
PlatinumPen
6 years, 9 months ago
Now you just need to make a journal debating that if this science was available
A. The possible repercussions to those transformed.
B. the legal rights and aspects of these beings
C. what would be your choices in genetics
D. extreme long term effects (i.e. change of Geo-political structure, descendants of such beings, likely genetic health factors, etc.)
and many more could be discussed.
SenGrisane
6 years, 9 months ago
I have made thoughts about it. But... that'd be another long journal. ^^
Maybe at a later point when i have some time again.
Chaospawpaw
6 years, 8 months ago
Not gonna stop me from trying! >:3
SenGrisane
6 years, 8 months ago
Trying what? ^^
Chaospawpaw
6 years, 8 months ago
To do as much as I can with genetic engineering.
SenGrisane
6 years, 8 months ago
I see ^^
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