Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Evolution Machine Accelerates Genetic Engineering

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the dino-size-bacon-please dept.

Biotech 161

chrb writes "New Scientist has an article about the Evolution Machine — a device which can accelerate directed artificial evolution to discover desirable DNA changes in days rather than years. One of the aims of these researchers is to create an organism that is genetically immune to all viruses."

cancel ×

161 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Here come the Daleks (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36641852)

Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!

( I for one welcome our new Dalek overlords )

Or.. (2)

Weezul (52464) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642074)

Marvel's High Evolutionary [wikipedia.org]

Re:Here come the Daleks (1)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 3 years ago | (#36643378)

Yeah, this seriously sounds like the beginning of any number of Doctor Who stories. "Genesis of the Daleks", "The Leisure Hive", and others, I'm sure.

I, for one, rather than welcoming our new Dalek overlords, shall take up arms on the side of the Thals.

Fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36641858)

I just hope it won't be immune to fire. That could cause problems.

"genetically immune to all viruses" (1, Insightful)

synaptik (125) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641884)

One of the aims of these researchers is to create an organism that is genetically immune to all viruses.

Someone needs to introduce these researchers to Gödel's incompleteness theorems.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

gwstuff (2067112) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641940)

How do Gödel's incompleteness theorems apply to creating an organism immune to all viruses? (Thanks in advance for the answer).

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

synaptik (125) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641998)

To plagiarize from Douglas Hofstadter: Consider a record player X (DNA) that vibrates into dust if it is ever used to play the record, "I Cannot Be Played on Record Player X" (virus). Now build a new record player Y, that is immune to record X. It is now possible to devise some other record, "I Cannot Be Played on Record Player Y", that will have a similar effect on the new record player.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642032)

How does that follow? Just because there existed a record that could destroy X, you can't conclude that there will exist one that can destroy Y.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36643242)

Yes, you can. (Metaphorically speaking.) To read an extended explanation, read "Gödel, Escher, Bach, An Eternal Golden Braid" by Douglas Hofstadter, where the metaphor is extensively developed and justified.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (2)

vbraga (228124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642182)

Call me dumb but I still don't follow. If you don't mind, can you dumb it down again? :)

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642256)

Imagine a virus advanced enough to cause supernovas. It will kill any record players.

It is a false premise though. The iea is to find something immune to all known viruses.
Then we will be able to find more viruses, because the only thing that will kill the organism is an unknown virus :)

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642216)

Bad analogy. Your example ends up with DNA Y being immune to DNA X, which is kind of pointless, since it's not a virus. DNA X would still be immune to viruses. Also, just because you can state the phrase "virus that DNA X isn't immune to" doesn't mean that it exists or is possible.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642726)

No, this new record will have no effect on the new record player because the new record player is immune to all records, existing ones and future ones (by definition).

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642794)

I think you're completely misunderstanding or misusing Godel.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642038)

What if that organism is a virus?

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

V-similitude (2186590) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642128)

Then it's not an organism.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

rainmayun (842754) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642328)

that doesn't mean that they might not end up creating a virus that's immune to lots of other things by accident.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642122)

How do Gödel's incompleteness theorems apply to creating an organism immune to all viruses?

Gödel's incompleteness theorem states, in relevant part, that no Slashdot discussion is complete without someone vaguely referring to a theory they know little to nothing about in the desperate hope of getting modded up.

(Thanks in advance for the answer).

No problem.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642966)

To elaborate on that, the incompleteness theorem is an essential part of the time-honored slashdot tradition of proof by anal extraction. Bullshit - it ain't just for breakfast any more.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

meburke (736645) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642532)

If you read the article, the presupposition of underlying future uses is that they will be able to logically predict and then prevent mishaps. I would explain Godel's theorem to a lay person by saying that logical analysis is layered, and above each layer is another layer that analyzes the underlying propositions, predicates and so forth differently. It is therefore impossible to accurately predict all the results just by using logic.

The article is, of course, dumb'ed down for public consumption, and the chain of events implied is much more complicated. The process itself may be very useful, but it is never finished because randomness and error will bring unpredictability.

If you are interested in a more fun way to learn about the logical layers, I suggest, "The Lady or the Tiger" by Raymond Smullyan. I love his books, and this one touches on Godel's Theorem in a very approachable way.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (2)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642934)

IANAM, but AFAIK GÃdel's incompleteness theorems apply to almost everything except axiomatic set theories specifically designed to avoid it. Likely what the OP referred to was that the sought isolation is highly improbable since in order to interact with its environment and therefore be a "living organism" it needs to be subject to death and disease and permeable to such currents of life. GITs sort of says that all systems fail when they get complex enough, which might not be a reason for solipsism since that would assume that the universe is fundamentally a logical place.

What I think is that these researchers are imagining is an island of stability and perfection, or an ultimate immune system, but I think life is more about having the right tool for the job and finding your niche.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642002)

One of the aims of these researchers is to create an organism that is genetically immune to all viruses.

Someone needs to introduce these researchers to Gödel's incompleteness theorems.

I agree. Reading Gödel, Esher and Bach would give enough clues.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del,_Escher,_Bach

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (5, Informative)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642102)

Actually, what they (Church and Jacobsen) are proposing, long term, is to create bacteria/cells/whatever that use a different DNA coding -- meaning they wouldn't be able to exchange DNA with anything that uses "natural" DNA coding, meaning anything already alive, even viruses. Basically a built-in firewall to prevent cross-contamination in either direction. Pretty ingenious, really. If you look at the "Changing the genetic code" diagram here [newscientist.com] you'll get the idea. Of course, I suspect we'd find that we'd soon get new viruses that also used this new coding, and contaminated these new cell lines.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36643300)

So they *did* mean that! I don't think you can get a new DNA via evolution. Not starting from an existing sample. The local peak is too high.

OTOH, if they *are* successful, while viruses will eventually show up, I wouldn't expect them in the current century (unless someone creates them on purpose). Or in the next century. And I'd consider seeing them in the current millennium to be grossly unexpected. Sufficiently so to suspect intelligent involvement. (I.e., people, computers, aliens, uplifted animals, SOME intelligence.) Of course, this depends on the genetic code actually having changed enough that no current virus will affect the results. If even one will, then rapid adaptive radiation can be expected.

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

zzyzyx (1382375) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642314)

What they want to create (implicitly) is an organism immune to all *existing* viruses, by using a different genetic code. Of course it would be possible to create a virus using this new genetic code, but none exists in nature (yet).

Re:"genetically immune to all viruses" (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36643222)

Well, if they meant all current viruses, then there's not a real problem. (Just change the letters of the DNA/RNA code.) It's complicated, and I don't think you could get there by evolving from the current state, but there's no theoretic problem. (You could even just switch them around. Use the same letters, but have a different trigram to amino-acid mapping.) (I don't really think we currently know enough about the ribosome to do this, but I could be wrong.)

If they mean no virus is possible, then I agree with you.

So either they mean something reasonable, or they don't. I'm presuming that they do (without reading the article). ISTM that what they're after would be useful, even if limited. (As opposed to a "giant leap" which probably can't be done via evolutionary methods. And would have really limited utility, being likely to require exotic food-stuffs, or to have high energetic requirements in processing it's food.)

genetically immune to all viruses? (1)

SpaceCracker (939922) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641886)

very doubtful. thats the beauty behind evolution - to every measure, there is a counter measure that eventually evolved.

Re:genetically immune to all viruses? (2)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641906)

Even if it were possible, is it a good idea?

"Hey I know, let's make something that reproduces and can't be killed en-masse."

Or, in short, let's make an even more indestructible cockroach.

Re:genetically immune to all viruses? (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 3 years ago | (#36643154)

Even if it were possible, is it a good idea?

"Hey I know, let's make something that reproduces and can't be killed en-masse."

Or, in short, let's make an even more indestructible cockroach.

I never thought "immune to mass genocide" could be a drawback. Thanks world, for ruining yet another day.

Good sci-fi premise (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641892)

What a great plot "device" (ba da bash!) for a science fiction story!

Call it "Deus* Ex Machina"! (Or how about "Intelligent Design ex machina" for our evolutionarily clueless friends?)

*"Deus" in this context does not mean literally God but rather the blind forces of nature artificially sped up by this machine. Sort of like a blind watchmaker on steroids AND caffeine (with apologies to Richard Dawkins).

doesn't this prove intelligent design is right? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642046)

i mean. here we are, intelligent creatures.

we are creating life. sure, we are using evolution as a tool to do it, but we have the final say in what lives and what dies.

Re:doesn't this prove intelligent design is right? (2)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642188)

Why would what we do prove anything about what some other hypothetical entity might have done?

Does the fact that I had stir-fry for dinner last night prove anything about what other people had for dinner last night? No. It simply means I, myself, had stir fry.

Similarly, the fact that we, an "intelligent" species are now sort of creating and designing life-forms says only that we, an "intelligent" species are now sort of creating and designing life-forms. It does not say we were created by an intelligent designer, it does not say that other living things were created by an intelligent designer, and it bears absolutely no relevance what-so-ever to the validity or invalidity of the concept of intelligent design as it is usually meant.

The only version of "intelligent design" this proves is the trivial and literal case: intelligent beings designing things. But we've been doing that, to one extent or another, as a species since we first began domesticating animals and crops. That trivial and literal case still does absolutely nothing to prove or disprove the usual meaning of intelligent design.

ok, but if the beings we create have a religion (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642822)

and they declare that some other intelligent being designed them, then wont they be right?

Re:ok, but if the beings we create have a religion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36643152)

and they declare that some other intelligent being designed them, then wont they be right?

Yes they will, but then if they go on to say that their creator is omniscient and immortal and loves them to death, or if they make up stories about the judgement by the creator and hell etc, then they'd be WRONG.

Re:doesn't this prove intelligent design is right? (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36643334)

Well, that explains everything.

Intelligent design is correct. And God is dead. He created a virus that killed him, and went on to populate the world.

This tells you something about the nature of God... He had clumsy lab protocols.

Re:Good sci-fi premise (1)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642164)

Or... a game? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Good sci-fi premise (1)

10101001 10101001 (732688) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642190)

Funny, I was thinking of a different game [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Good sci-fi premise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36643204)

Or "Space seed." Someone ought to start building the Botany Bay, maybe.

I know how this ends... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36641934)

"One of the aims of these researchers is to create an organism that is genetically immune to all viruses."

Jesus, somebody stop them NOW. We don't even have a superhero to fight that thing yet, what the fuck are they thinking?

We can't be trusted with this (3, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641936)

I wonder how easily it could be used to engineer the opposite case: a virus against which humans have no effective defenses.

Heck, just make on that takes out chickens, cows, and pigs, and humans all of a sudden have a major protein deficiency until alternatives (nuts, fish, etc.) could be ramped up, which would probably take at least 1-2 years.

beans & legumes (3, Interesting)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642010)

ever since the dawn of modern agriculture, protein has come largely from beans.

especially in the America's where cows and pigs did not exist until circa 1500 AD when the europeans introduced them (along with their zoonotic diseases).

Re:We can't be trusted with this (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642220)

Sure we can be trusted with it, just as we've been "trusted" (by whom, I wonder) with every other technology that has caused alarmists to predict the apocalypse.

We're still here.

Re:We can't be trusted with this (1)

Ja'Achan (827610) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642254)

A man falls from a 100 story building. At the 50th story, someone sticks their head out of a window and asks the man, "how's life?" The man answers "so far, so good."

Re:We can't be trusted with this (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642334)

Well then, you have proven conclusively that the entirety of humanity is doomed, doomed, doomed and we should never, ever look into anything new.

Oh, wait - you've missed entirely the idea that a man falling from a very high place is basically bound by laws of physics we understand pretty well to continue accelerating until he impacts with the ground, likely fatally based on tons of evidence, unless there is some kind of miraculous intervention?

Can you tell me, please, what evidence we have - what laws exist, and what records we have - that prove that short of some kind of miraculous intervention, we are doomed based on our current course of action?

I understand the idea of being *cautious* when developing new things, but there's a difference between caution and alarmism. Simply throwing up your hands and saying "we're doomed" doesn't help. I'd much rather say "Oh, this new and interesting development could be used for all kinds of badness - let's try to find ways to make sure that we can take advantage of it while minimizing the risks."

One thing is productive and useful, the other is just pointless fearmongering.

Re:We can't be trusted with this (1)

Thantik (1207112) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642736)

Can you tell me, please, what evidence we have - what laws exist, and what records we have - that prove that short of some kind of miraculous intervention, we are doomed based on our current course of action?

The universe is basically one big shooting gallery. It's pretty much guaranteed at some point or another we're going to get hit. Not that I believe that it means we should all just throw our hands up, stop investigating every inch of life and yell "We're doomed!" though. But you asked.

Re:We can't be trusted with this (2)

biodata (1981610) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642812)

> Can you tell me, please, what evidence we have - what laws exist, and what records we have - that prove that short of some kind of miraculous intervention, we are doomed based on our current course of action? The law of evolution, and the fossil record suggest we are headed for doom. In previous mass extinctions the pattern has generally been that creatures with large bodies go extinct, probably due to their fragile life-histories, depending as they do on environmental stability and webs of other creatures for their sustenance. The creatures that survived tended to be the smaller creatures that could subsist on raw materials and other small creatures, or which could hide it out in the sea or under rocks for a millennium or so. The current mass extinction is already wiping out whole swathes of animals, especially the large ones, and there is no evidence to suggest we will be immune.

Re:We can't be trusted with this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642816)

What, exactly, do you think cows, chickens, and pigs eat right now?

Re:We can't be trusted with this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642820)

ROFL. You are talking out of your ass.

America alone can already grow enough protein-rich plants to feed the entire world, right now. Our capacity for overproduction is SO HIGH that the government pays farmers to NOT grow food, in an effort at preventing the bottom to fall out of the market.

And even so, Americans routinely consume amounts of protein in extreme excess of what they actually need...most of it coming right back out.

Since you didn't cite any sources, I won't either.

Paging Davros! (2, Interesting)

Artifice_Eternity (306661) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641944)

Mr. Davros to the white courtesy telephone, please: [wikipedia.org]

Davros realizes that contamination from the nuclear and biological weapons used in the war is mutating the Kaled race, and artificially accelerates the process to examine the ultimate evolutionary end product. The mutations are weak and crippled: no more than one-eyed brains with tentacular appendages and with no hope of survival on their own. His solution is to remove all emotions pertaining to weakness, a category in which he groups such emotions as compassion, mercy and kindness, and place the mutants in tank-like "Mark III travel machines" partly based on the design of his wheelchair. He later names these creatures Daleks, an anagram of Kaleds.

I remember when Magneto did this... (1)

Soluzar (1957050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641952)

He built a machine that could advance evolution too. Made himself some insta-henchmen in the Savage Land, way back in the super-early X-Men comics. I don't remember it from when it was published, mind you... because that was the 1960s I think.

I read about it in a trade paperback collection years later. Also they brought the machine back a couple of times in the 1980s.

Whoever would have thought that modern science would re-create any of Magneto's schemes?

Re:I remember when Magneto did this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36641982)

This was also part of the plot of the X-Men movie back in 2000.

but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642036)

eugenics was a real practice, taken to it's height in the Nazi "T4" program and "Genetic Health" program.

they were purposely trying to 'artificially select' the human race so as to 'improve' society.

and of course Magneto, according to one comic book series, grew up in Auschwitz, where his life was spared only because he found a job running the ovens.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (0)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642104)

Eugenics is a real practice. It's just that its believers don't call it that anymore. Just look at the abortion statistics for minorities in the U.S. vs the rest of the population.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642114)

No no no. That's not eugenics, that's economics.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (0)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642158)

Really? You're telling me that the fact that Planned Parenthood has more clinics in black neighborhoods is just economics? You know, the Planned Parenthood that was founded by Margaret Sanger, who advocated abortions on "socially undesirables" (including African Americans).

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642178)

Are you really saying that Planned Parenthood is some kind of anti-non-white organization?

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (0)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642214)

Yes, they are ardent supporters of the Democratic Party and they are actively working to encourage blacks to have abortions at a greater rate than they are encouraging whites to do so. Look at the results of their behavior.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642274)

I didn't say you were paranoid, you must have imagined that. Seriously, I've heard some crazy, clueless, paranoid, delusional ramblings in my time, but yours is one of the most pathetically comical. Tell the truth, did Sarah Palin tell you to think this? Or was it Glenn Beck?

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1, Troll)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642408)

Look at the numbers. I did not make it up. According to the CDC, in 2005 198,385 blacks nationwide died from heart disease, cancer, strokes, accidents, diabetes, homicide, and chronic lower respiratory diseases combined. These were the seven leading causes of death for black Americans that year. Also, according to the CDC, the jurisdictions which reported abortions by race (which does not include Florida, California, and New York State outside of NYC among others), reported that 203,991 abortions were conducted on the pregnancies of black women that year. According to other sources, approximately 36% of abortions are conducted on black women, who make up approximately 13% of the population.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642556)

It still doesn't follow that Planned Parenthood are conspiring to compell black women to have abortions. There may be reasons why these women are statistically more likely to be having abortions, so that's why Planned Parenthood operate in greater force in such areas. It could be colour, culture, economics, or any other number of reasons.

Have you any figures to suggest that women visiting Planned Parenthood are either encouraged or discouraged to have an abortion based on their skin colour?

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642572)

who make up approximately 13% of the population.

Of the whole population? Or of the 50% of the population capable of getting an abortion? Because if they're 36% of the female population, and getting 36% of the abortions, then I fail to see what the problem is.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642534)

Are you looking at the rates of pregnancy between people of different color? If blacks are getting pregnant more, they should be having more abortions.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642288)

Yes. They hate niggers, spics, wops, heebs, japs, zipper heads, sand niggers, and even oreos. They fucking love crackers though.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642282)

Is Ms. Sanger still running Planned Parenthood?

Should we assume all organizations currently in existence are being run with the goals of their original founders in mind?

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642422)

Considering that close to 36% of abortions are conducted on blacks, yet they only make up approximately 13% of the population, it sure looks like they are being true to her ideals.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642648)

And no factors other than race are at play?

Is it 36% of all AA individuals regardless of income and education levels?

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (3, Insightful)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642686)

What I'm saying with the above (and I hit submit before I typed this, alas) is that AA individuals are disproportionately impoverished or low income/education in the US, and consequently will be overrepresented in statistics that are influenced heavily by economic factors.

Look at any public health issue and it's actually income and education that play the largest role in disparities, not race. To try and paint it solely as a racial picture without acknowledging the very real role economics plays avoids the real issues at play and also leads to "solutions" that don't actually address the underlying causes.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642516)

You really are an idiot. Male right?
Planned Parent hood primarily helps women that cant afford as doctors visit. Therefore they are in poorer neighbourhoods.
PAP smears and other visits can help her live in health and detect problems BEFORE they become major issues..
Get out of your mothers basement and learn some thing about female physiology. Lots more can happen to us than just you getting your member caught in a zipper.

God help us from morons.

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642168)

No no no. That's not eugenics, that's economics.

On point though sad but true.+1

Re:but wasnt that just based on eugenics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642424)

might want too look as pregnancy stats before jumping to conclusions, can't get an abortion if you never get pregnant in the first place.

Re:I remember when Magneto did this... (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642446)

[Magneto] built a machine that could advance evolution too [..] 1960s I think.

Evolution machine in the 1960s? Old hat. Try Microcosmic God [wikipedia.org] , 1941.

Oh, this'll work! (1)

Caraig (186934) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641970)

I see absolutely no reason why this could possibly be a bad idea.

Though maybe if I RTFA I'd get a better understanding of what's going on besides from the /. summary. =D

Re:Oh, this'll work! (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642050)

Some would say that you should know what you're talking about before you open your mouth.

Re:Oh, this'll work! (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642618)

Those "some" that would say that probably don't know humans very well. What planet are they from? Were they engineered with a machine that increases evolution speed?

By the way, what site is this anyway?

homo sapiens sapiens. 200,000 BC to 2100 AD. RIP (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#36641996)

it was a nice species, while it lasted.

too bad they never really evolved that much from their simian ancestors. 200,000 years of evolution and they are still trying to prove whose dick is bigger.

Not without cost (4, Insightful)

sammysheep (537812) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642020)

When you select for resistant bacteria growing in the presence of antibiotics, there is usually a fitness tradeoff for that resistance. Suppose now instead that we have some virus-resistant organism we've engineered. This means all the virus receptors on the surface of the cell no longer bind virus particles, and if you've done this for *many* virus receptors, then you've mutated a lot of cell-surface proteins. I can't imagine this would go without fitness cost.

On the other hand, from studying influenza I can say that viruses evolve much faster than we do and if a variant (maybe adapted to another host) or subtype emerges that can bind your receptor anyway, then in effect you've selected out variants but not stopped the virus. Getting regular vaccines are still the way to go on this, IMO.

Military use (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642056)

This sounds perfect for making biological weapons. This process has one major weakness: Natural selection means adding random mutations, meaning there will probably be more than just the desired changes. So long as the corp doesn't see those mutations as harmful (tobacco is safe!) they will go ahead and sell it.

I, for one, welcome... (1)

Memroid (898199) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642146)

I, for one, welcome our new genetically immune overlords!

PS: Farewell mankind.

virus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642148)

Or a virus that is genetically immune to all treatments.

Monarch butterflies? (1)

careysb (566113) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642160)

Except ... it will kill off honey bees and Monarch butterflies. (like some other perfectly "safe" genetic engineering)

Re:Monarch butterflies? (1)

boredsenseless (1246818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642590)

Yeah, it has already killed Henchman 24.

Welcome to the 1980s: (4, Insightful)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642320)

This article is hyped up to the stars.

It's good work, but the ideas aren't "revolutionary" the way they are portrayed.

Lateral gene transfer in bacteria has been known for a long time. It's how resistance to antibiotics is spread among bacteria for example.

It's also been used a good deal already by microbiologists/biochem types (that line is getting a little blurred these days).

Church's group has found a way to automate this.

They can create large numbers of bacterial strains which have some or all of the desired characteristics in a short time.

The downside is the needle of the desired organism is in a haystack of partially successful or unsuccessful ones. In this case, it was linked to production of a bright red chemical. You could determine which was closer to the right one by color. That's easy to automate.

Most characteristics won't be that easy to screen or automate.

Church then goes into what's really an old idea. Encrypting the genome so that it's resistant to existing virus types. You then use a modified ribosome to translate that into proteins. I remember discussions of that in the late 80/early 90s on some of the transhumanist newsgroups (anyone remember usenet?).

The devil in the details here is that much of the information in the genome isn't for coding proteins directly, but for regulating gene expressions and other purposes. Much of that latter we still don't understand. It's hard to design an encryption to preserve a functionality you don't understand.

So, instead of throwing up their hands, Church et al appeal to using the above automated method and the microbes to sort out something that works, but again we really won't understand. At least at first.

It's an interesting idea. Sounds like a lot of work even if automated.

But, as anyone who was caught up in the genetic algorithms craze in computers can attest, it's not a guaranteed solution.

Re:Welcome to the 1980s: (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642656)

"So, instead of throwing up their hands, Church et al appeal to using the above automated method and the microbes to sort out something that works, but again we really won't understand. At least at first."

Seems a great tool for helping us understanding. It is probably much easier if you know more than one encoding that works.

Re:Welcome to the 1980s: (3, Insightful)

Rutulian (171771) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642924)

Actually this research is really interesting...maybe not revolutionary, but interesting. I went to a talk by one of Church's postdocs at a conference recently and he was talking about this project. There are a lot of potential applications, but the example he was using was the optimization of the production of a metabolite. Traditionally this has been the hold up for synthetic biology. Getting microorganisms to produce industrially useful metabolites is not new. But engineering them to produce a large amount in and economical manner is where all the time and money goes because it requires some modeling, a lot of guessing, and mostly manual genetic manipulation. This technique uses the principal of directed evolution of a single gene (known for a few decades as you say) and applies it to an entire gene cluster, and potentially an entire organism. And it works! It's not a finished project, to be sure, but it can potentially become a very useful tool.

The "encrypting the genome" case refers to changing the codon code for the organism. Non-coding sequences won't be affected by it. The idea is that if you use a non-canonical genetic code for protein expression, foreign dna can still be inserted into the genome, but it can't be expressed. So viruses won't be able to replicate in the organism. It is immunity of sorts, but perhaps not really the way we normally think about it. It is useful because it potentially allows for the creation of stable genetically-engineered organisms. The biosafety concerns of genetically modified organisms come from the various mechanisms by which recombinant dna can "escape" and get out into the environment. An organism like this will be genetically isolated and therefore should mitigate many of those concerns. It also lessens the likelihood of further mutation over time, which can make your possibly $millions investment worthless.

Re:Welcome to the 1980s: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642956)

Another way to engineer humans to protect against 100% of all viruses is to switch the chirality of its amino acids. We call this mirror life.

New human species (1)

zzyzyx (1382375) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642348)

Describing the application of this technique to humans :

anyone modified in this way would only be able to conceive children naturally with a partner whose genome had been altered in exactly the same way.

That would be creating a new human species, by definition. I must admit I find the idea fascinating, and I'm quite sure this is inevitable, but it's also worrying for us standard, non "enhanced" humans.

Re:New human species (1)

Sinthet (2081954) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642460)

All we need is a bunch of Nexus 6's walking around xD.

Chimera much? (1)

biodata (1981610) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642350)

Does anyone really think they won't also secretly develop Bellerophon? Let's hope they do or this could turn out to be a REALLY stupid idea.

Only for some definitions of virus... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642382)

You may be able to create immunity against most nucleic acid-based viruses this way. However, if you consider prions to be viruses, you won't be able to genetic engineer past them. Some prions take advantage of the protein misfolding response, which is not something you would want to engineer away.

Re:Only for some definitions of virus... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36643164)

However, if you consider prions to be viruses

I don't think I've ever met anyone who considered prions to be viruses. That'd be like considering scooters to be cruise boats.

What about gene therapy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642412)

If an organism is immune to all viruses, what vector will they use for gene therapy? Or, will such organisms just have to die of otherwise-curable genetic conditions?

More Fodder for ID Straight from Our Own Mouths (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36642448)

Accelerate "/directed artificial evolution/"

In other words, Intelligent Design.

Do we really need to just HAND these people ammunition like this?

Genetic engineering for illegal drugs (1)

ortholattice (175065) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642474)

I wonder how long it will be before we have a genetically-engineered yeasts that produce THC, morphine, amphetamines, cocaine, etc., so that anyone could make what they want in a small Petri dish, starting from a microscopic amount of starter yeast. How would society deal with this?

Re:Genetic engineering for illegal drugs (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642674)

Seems doable today, if you are willing to invesr half a house and a few years into it. Too bad most people wiling to invest those are looking for more usefull results.

Re:Genetic engineering for illegal drugs (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642802)

Fyi, the genes responsible for synthesis of THC-a (carboxylated acid form found in plant before heating/burning/vaping/cooking which causes rapid decarboxylation to form THC), from acetyl-CoA is known and published, with the genetic sequences attached to the publication. It is in the 19 September 2009 publication of the Journal of Experimental Botany.

Plasmid based expression, or transgenic expression, in yeast or E. coli, or tomatoes (no plasmid in tomatoes) would not likely require more than one dedicated lab and a couple months-years of research.

Or someone could use Agrobacter tumefasciens (common agricultural gmo tool), to add the genes to common targets like, say, tobacco plants, for those future California consumers....

Microcosmic God (1)

opencity (582224) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642568)

Am I the only one who thought of Theodore Sturgeon?
(note I've only skimmed the comments so ...)

GMO Not Necessary (2)

pubwvj (1045960) | more than 3 years ago | (#36642716)

Meanwhile scientific research has revealed that GMOs are not as good as traditional breeding methods for producing improvements. GMOing typically costs $100,000,000 for a trait. Traditional methods cost $1,000,000 per trait and get better results.

What is good is that the advancements in genetic understandings are improving the traditional breeding methods. No need to GMO frankenmonsters.

the downside (2)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 3 years ago | (#36643010)

" to create an organism that is genetically immune to all viruses."

And hungry. Very, very hungry. With the ability to smell neurons.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>