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Scientists Modify Organism With Artificial Amino Acid

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the warm-glow-of-the-worms dept.

Biotech 149

IndigoDarkwolf writes "The Beeb reports that biologists Sebastian Greiss and Jason Chin have genetically modified a multicellular organism (Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny worm) to combine an amino acid not found in nature into a custom-built protein. The protein created by their genetically-modified worm contained a dye which glows when exposed to UV light. While previous work showed that genetic modification could incorporate non-natural amino acids into custom proteins for single-celled organisms, this is the first time an entire animal has been modified."

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justin bieber is a scientist? (0)

MichaelKristopeit501 (2018074) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064120)

slashdot = stagnated

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (-1, Offtopic)

MomoolaMan (2435622) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064178)

On your heels, MichaelKristopeit501! I came to feast on what is between your bootyasscheek johnson ultimatum supremacies! I am superoly scrump!

Then, after I spotted the ghost, I reached between my bootyasscheekcrack and pulled out a plethora of Rice A Roni. Such a cum fiesta inside my ass, it is!

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (0)

MichaelKristopeit501 (2018074) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064216)

on ur mum's face's heels.

cower in my shadow some more behind your chosen greed for currency based pseudonym, feeb.

you're completely pathetic.

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064914)

Because trolling the same shit for months is not pathetic.

Slashdot trolls==stagnant

Come up with something different the 'you're pathetic'. You could at least be a creative troll.

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (1)

MichaelKristopeit425 (2018896) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065056)

Because ur mum's face could at least be a creative troll.

logical truth is not created, it implies itself.

cower in my shadow some more, feeb.

you're exactly what you've claimed to be: NOTHING

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064250)

I hear your wife likes to fuck donkeys and peg you up the ass with a giant golden dildo. Is this the case?

Or has that whore dumped your ass yet?

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (1, Offtopic)

Mikey Kristopeity (1905328) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064472)

bestiality = stagnated

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064544)

Mikey Kristopeity, I want to make sweet sweet homosexual love to you. Will you be giver? 3

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (0)

MichaelKristopeit422 (2018884) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064908)

the only case is your choice to cower in my shadow.

cower in my shadow some more, feeb.

you're completely pathetic.

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (0)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064636)

Hey I first read the title as "Scientists Modify Orgasm With Artificial Amino Acid.

How disappointed am I?

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (0)

MichaelKristopeit422 (2018884) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064680)

not very?

you're an idiot.

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064732)

Sit on my face, I want to taste your delicious anus.

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (1)

MichaelKristopeitMom (2435808) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065586)

Mike, please get your ass to bed before I have to ground you from your computer for another week. Cower in my shadow some more, feeb. You're completely pathetic.

Re:justin bieber is a scientist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064964)

You need to start taking lessons from Dr.Bob.

Adruino Worm anyone? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064140)

So... bets on how many years until we have enthusiast programmable critters? :)

Re:Adruino Worm anyone? (3, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064292)

They did reprogram the worms. No doubt people have done DIY genetics with these worms before too. It's not as easy as genetic splicing with yeast or ecoli, but enthusiasts could definitely make their own transgenic worms in their garage. If you buy or make your own PCR machine [genomeweb.com] , that's probably the biggest barrier right there.

Re:Adruino Worm anyone? (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064454)

Actually, it's a little trickier than that. Worms have to be microinjected. But that hasn't stopped people from trying to make worm engineering widely accessible. This [igem.org] is the seminal work on the topic, I believe.

Re:Adruino Worm anyone? (1)

EnderDom (1934586) | more than 3 years ago | (#37066206)

PCR machine's not much use without a polymerase. That's where having some e.coli with Taq expression construct comes in. But of course were I to take it out of the lab: I'd be arrested and the media might get hold of it and GM media shitstorm (with lashings of Pop Sci-Fi references) would ensue. Sometimes I am super tempted though. Would be cool to be able to run PCRs in my bedroom.

Prior art? (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064144)

How is this different from those glowing Chineese pigs or those neon tetras with unnatural colors that are illegal in California?

Re:Prior art? (2)

Anonymous Cowar (1608865) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064184)

How is this different from those glowing Chineese pigs or those neon tetras with unnatural colors that are illegal in California?

Those involved taking a gene that created a naturally created protein using naturally occurring amino acids and then injected them, frankenstein style into another animal. These take an artificially modified gene that uses an artificial amino acid to create worms that glow. Did you read TFS?

Re:Prior art? (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064294)

I read it but I failed to comprehend it. Thank you for helping. (thanks to the other posts below helping clarify this for me as well)

Re:Prior art? (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064192)

Those spliced in existing genetic code. This involves code containing amino acids that are not found in nature.
Car analogy: Swapping the suspension from another car onto your own vs. machining your own suspension from scratch to a design not used on any other car.

Re:Prior art? (4, Informative)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064260)

The breakthrough here is not artificial biological fluorescence, which has been around for a long time. The breakthrough is also not that this is a fluorescent amino acid (as opposed to full proteins made up of many amino acids, like GFP, which is again what you're talking about), evidently those have been demonstrated for a few years. This is tricking an organism into -using- an artificial amino acid, a fluorescent one.

Being able to incorporate fluorescent amino acids into a protein -looks- pretty striking, but people have been able to get cells to attach a fluorescent protein onto other proteins for years. The fluorescence here was just an easy assay to tell if they had gotten the c elegans to use a different, entirely artificial building block. Fluorescent amino acids may turn out to be the biggest use for this discovery, but the real story here is that we have a new tool, not that the tool can be used to make organisms glow.

Re:Prior art? (2)

NoMaster (142776) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064304)

It's the "amino acid not found in nature" that's the story here, not the "dye which glows when exposed to UV light".

They've modified the DNA of a multi-celluar organism to produce a non-natural amino acid. It's been done before, yes, but only in single-celled organisms. The sequence is

1) Take a fluorescing protein
2) Modify the protein so it only glows when contains_custom_amino_acid == TRUE.
3) Insert protein sequence in DNA
4) PROFIT!

The glowing pigs, cats, dogs, and fish omit step #2.

Re:Prior art? (2)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064364)

The glowing Chinese pigs are using proteins and amino acids that already exist: we found the proteins in an existing animal, probably some deep-sea fish, then took the DNA responsible for the creation for those proteins, and spliced it into the genome of the pigs. Here, they decided on what protein they wanted ahead of time, with plain old chemistry, then crafted a custom DNA sequence for the purpose of creating that protein (apparently creating never-before-used amino acids in the process). Existing protein/DNA transplanted into new animal vs. new protein/DNA built from the ground up.

Here, let me karma whore and try my hand at one o' them car analogies: the first example is like taking the radio out of your truck and putting it in your Volvo, whereas the second example is designing an entirely new kind of playback machine, with the right interface and wires, then wiring it up to the Volvo.

HENDRIX SAID KISS THIS GUY !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064146)

So he must have been gay !!

Re:HENDRIX SAID KISS THIS GUY !! (-1, Offtopic)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064156)

He died for your sins. Leave him alone.

One step closer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064180)

...to [genetically-enhanced] sharks with [bio]lasers!

I'm a little uneasy about this (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064182)

I don't mean like haha, "I, for one, welcome our new C. elegans overlords" or tagging the story with whatcouldpossiblygowrong. I mean The Stand. Could somebody with a reasonable knowledge of GM organisms please offer some reassurance that this technique couldn't backfire in some disastrous way?

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064254)

Could you speculate some specific way you think it would backfire that's either unique, or is significantly more likely? Or at least cite someone who even sounds knowledgeable who's said anything specific?

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064392)

If I could answer you specifically, I probably wouldn't have asked in the first place. My degree is in CS. It just seems that modifying multicellular organisms with non-natural amino acids might create a whole new class of threat. Say, a hardy, prolific insect with an insatiable appetite for all cereal grasses. Could there be naturally mutated single celled organism that would do the same? I suppose, but now the possibilities are growing.

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (3)

Iron (III) Chloride (922186) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064510)

I don't mean like haha, "I, for one, welcome our new C. elegans overlords" or tagging the story with whatcouldpossiblygowrong. I mean The Stand. Could somebody with a reasonable knowledge of GM organisms please offer some reassurance that this technique couldn't backfire in some disastrous way?

IAABIT (I am a biologist in training) and based on my knowledge, there's honestly nothing to worry about for this, because it is fundamentally a chemical change. You're gaining the ability to use amino acids other than the 20 that naturally exist, but at that low of a level all that you're gaining is more biochemical versatility. You're going to have to go much higher in terms of complexity and organization before you get something that could potentially pose a danger or what not.

It's sort of like changing one of the instructions in the instruction set of your CPU - would you be worried about malware at that point? I wouldn't say so. It's at the much higher levels that you would start to become worried when these fundamental chemical units (or instructions) start getting combined in novel ways that are potentially dangerous that you would really begin to worry about things. A simple categorical change in amino acid may or may not alter the large-scale properties of macromolecules which are responsible for the majority of biological function. This advance will simply give us the ability to have a greater range of freedom on which to conduct genetic engineering by opening up the possibility of using non-natural amino acids (and "natural" just means one of the 20 amino acids who happen to have been adopted for use by the first biological life forms) - it doesn't really say what the end phenotype will be because that depends on the way the amino acid is used.

Hope that made sense.

no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064614)

lol

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065360)

IANAB.
Suppose an alga with a gene containing an "unnatural" aminoacid escapes the enclosure and start multiplying (thus producing more of that unnatural aminoacid). What would happen to organisms that feed on that algae? Or just... I don't know... inhale it in the act of respiration?

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (1)

Kittenman (971447) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064394)

I sort of agree with the AC - everything can backfire in some disastrous way. My daughter's piano teacher fell down some steps and bruised her arm. I got a splinter in my finger putting logs into the woodburner. Question is, is the risk worth it?

IMHO, yes.

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065756)

I sort of agree with the AC - everything can backfire in some disastrous way. My daughter's piano teacher fell down some steps and bruised her arm. I got a splinter in my finger putting logs into the woodburner. Question is, is the risk worth it?

IMHO, yes.

Maybe if you didn't chop up her staircase for firewood she wouldn't have fallen.
Maybe if you knocked her unconscious before throwing her in the oven with some more logs she wouldn't have struggled, and you wouldn't have gotten that splinter.

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064726)

Could somebody with a reasonable knowledge of GM organisms please offer some reassurance that this technique couldn't backfire in some disastrous way?

Perhaps the same could be asked of all scientific advancements.

Unfortunately, those fools who pushed ahead despite fears succeeded, and we are all the better* for it.

*Better assuming the tradeoffs of our modern society cause the scales that balances things out to fall on the positive rather than the negative side. Some would argue the tradeoffs we've made compared to 500 years ago is negative. I do not subscribe to such a school of thought.

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064846)

I mean The Stand. Could somebody with a reasonable knowledge of GM organisms please offer some reassurance that this technique couldn't backfire in some disastrous way?

Well, c.elegans doesn't cause disease, they eat bacteria. They are also far, far, far too macroscopic to be airborne even if they were to suddenly take a liking to human flesh.

As far as assurances that this technique couldn't backfire, there are nearly infinite ways that absolutely anything could backfire if you don't look at probability. Turning on your car could backfire in that the engine might explode due to a defect, could explode due to some quirk of quantum physics, could produce through the burning of hydrocarbons a new microorganism that would cause the end of the world. All fairly unlikely.

The best way to reassure you might be that biologists have, for years, been fooling around with the genetics of C. elegans. A lot. During a lab rotation a few years ago, I introduced an HIV protein into worms. Thus far I have not died a horrible death. One common technique to look for genes involves soaking the worms in mutagens. The goal being to get a worm with a mutation in one of its genes, for every single gene in the worm genome. That's a lot of completely random genetic fiddling. We're not juggling with vials of ebola here. With this specific case, this is an artificial amino acid. If the worm got out, it wouldn't find any of that amino acid, it would just be a normal worm basically.

With GMO, the most down-to-earth concern is that the mutations will get out into the population. That's not really a concern with these worms. They evolve so quickly that the lab strains are probably obsolete, having been used since the 50s or so, and they really don't affect us eating bacteria as they do. Weeds becoming resistant to roundup are exponentially more of a concern than genetically modified c.elegans.

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065572)

...I introduced an HIV protein into worms. We're not juggling with vials of ebola here.

Right, your hands are full. Making sweet worm lovin.

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (2)

structural_biologist (1122693) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065280)

Well, let's say these engineered worms escape into the environment. 1) the paper does not show whether the changes they made to the worm's genome are heritable, so the worm's offspring might not be able to incorporate the unnatural amino acids and the trait might go away after the escaped engineered worms die. Even if the trait is heritable, the paper suggests that the gene cassette they engineered into the worm gets lost from the genome over time, so after a few generations, the trait would likely be lost. 2) these worms do not have the ability to synthesize the unnatural amino acids on their own. They incorporate the unnatural amino acids into their proteins only when the researchers feed the worms large amounts of the unnatural amino acid. Without a source of unnatural amino acids, they are just slightly broken versions of a normal C. elegans worm.

Does this make you feel any better?

Re:I'm a little uneasy about this (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065378)

TFA - with my emphasis

But Dr Chin says any artificial amino acid could be chosen to produce specific new properties. Dr de Bono suggests the approach could now be used to introduce into organisms designer proteins that could be controlled by light.

On the "bright side" - some designer CART-s [wikipedia.org] activated by shining a laser [slashdot.org] inside the ear?

Mmmmmm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064198)

Wow! I love the gummy glow worms!

Now we have real ones that poop out glowing liquid!

Does This Present a Dilemma? (3, Interesting)

ideonexus (1257332) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064220)

So far in the Genetically Modified Foods debate, I've been arguing that, since the genes spliced into GMOs are genes that already exist in nature, GMOs really aren't the nightmarish cancer-causing foodstuffs people make them out to be and that GM foods are the only way we're going to support a population of 7 billion people on this planet just as nitrogen-fixing fertilizer caused a green revolution that allows us to support our current population size.

So what happens when we start splicing genes into organisms that don't exist in nature? When companies start wanting to work this stuff into our food, and the FDA and courts roll over to allow it unquestioningly, then I think I might start to side with the anti GM Food people. This could be a second green revolution, but with America gutting its science programs, there will be no one to make sure this stuff doesn't have horrible health repercussions.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (4, Interesting)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064278)

On the other hand, creating engineered novel protiens and biomechanics could open the doors to a whole range of "Very very cool" things.

Take for instance, slime molds modified to produce long chain carbon nanofiber as they crawl along, or plants able to extract energy from a wider frequency band than is currently possible with photosynthesis (Or even to do so more efficiently.)

Simply because the substance is artifically engineered does not necessarily mean it is going to cause problems. (and if it does, it will just spark a flash of evolutionary progression in impacted species, much like antibiotics have done for microbes.)

I can see this being used in foodstuffs, especially where Monsanto is involved, but where I see this really shining is in materials science. Microbes are the most efficient nano-machines in existence. Being able to custom program them to make novel substances and materials is a fundemental leap on technology.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064338)

I welcome our new microbial-monsanto overlords

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064376)

Bio-hacking (at home), its been around a while now. Google it.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064400)

plants able to extract energy from a wider frequency band than is currently possible with photosynthesis (Or even to do so more efficiently.)

and produce sugars from it to feed the modified bacteria living in symbiosis to directly produce diesel. The bacteria has already been created. All that is needed is the sugar.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065782)

plants able to extract energy from a wider frequency band than is currently possible with photosynthesis (Or even to do so more efficiently.)

and produce sugars from it to feed the modified bacteria living in symbiosis to directly produce diesel. The bacteria has already been created. All that is needed is the sugar.

In America, first you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (Why yes it does.) (1)

conspirator23 (207097) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064714)

(and if it does, it will just spark a flash of evolutionary progression in impacted species, much like antibiotics have done for microbes.)

This seems like a good time to point out that one way of "sparking" evolutionary progression is killing off 95% of a population. Given the likelihood of homo sapiens counting among the "impacted species," I'd have to ask you if you like your odds?

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (Why yes it does.) (1)

Creedo (548980) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065072)

This seems like a good time to point out that one way of "sparking" evolutionary progression is killing off 95% of a population. Given the likelihood of homo sapiens counting among the "impacted species," I'd have to ask you if you like your odds?

The odds of us going extinct is 100%. The only question is how and when. The odds of some GM food introducing a fatal bit of DNA into the wild and causing our deaths is negligible at best. We are far more likely to kill ourselves simply by continuing our current consumption rates and mining out vital ecosystems.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (Why yes it does.) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37066092)

The odds of us going extinct is 100%. The only question is how and when.

It's not 100% until "we" know final fate of universe, and wether "we" can escape it. Evolving in a different species can happen without extinction, you know.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064352)

If genetically modified organisms are to proceed, perhaps it would be a good idea to mandate that all GMOs incorporate the florescent gene, for the purpose of easy identification, by consumers.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065510)

2 years later, every foodstuff glows. What then?

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 3 years ago | (#37066020)

We save energy by not needing the little light in the fridge.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064470)

So far in the Genetically Modified Foods debate, I've been arguing that, since the genes spliced into GMOs are genes that already exist in nature, GMOs really aren't the nightmarish cancer-causing foodstuffs people make them out to be

The problem with that line of reasoning is that we've had hundreds of thousands of years to figure out what plants are safe to eat. When you mix-and-match genes, be they totally artificial or transplants from other species, you don't know what the outcome will be. It's entirely possible that this brand new combination will produce un-expected side-effects.

Obvious side-effects like producing massive quantities of arsenic will get noticed before it ever leaves the lab. But something more subtle that doesn't manifest in any symptoms until ten years later and then only in certain people, perhaps those with a certain type of allergy, could easily become wide-spread in our food supply, affecting millions of people long after it was too late to do anything about it.

Just because its "natural" doesn't mean it's safe.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (5, Insightful)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064546)

Boo fucking Hoo. Some people might possibly have health problems we can't foresee in ten years is your reasoning to stop the advancement of biology and nutrition science? I am so sick of the whole "we can't do anything that might possibly be dangerous" attitude. Shit Happens. People Die. Live with it (or don't, if you're one of the unlucky few). If you want to live in an absolutely safe environment your local mental institution has a nice padded cell for you. Out here in the real world us human beings have to take risks to get anywhere in life.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064890)

Boo fucking Hoo. Some people might possibly have health problems we can't foresee in ten years is your reasoning to stop the advancement of biology and nutrition science

So, let me get this straight. A million people die of cancer 15 years down the road because of an unintended side-effect of say, GMO corn, and you think that's no big deal?

Out here in the real world us human beings have to take risks to get anywhere in life.

Yeah, why don't we do away with the FDA completely? Just put anything and everything on the market and let people decide on their own, amiright?

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (2)

bane2571 (1024309) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064976)

?So, let me get this straight. A million people die of cancer 15 years down the road because of an unintended side-effect of say, GMO corn, and you think that's no big deal?

Evert time I clap, a child dies from starvation[/bono], GMO crops have the potential to greatly increase food yields. I'd say the gain far outweighs the risk. That is only with the known benefits. That is the beauty of science, keep moving and you discover NEW good things to balance any new bad things. Stop moving and the best you can say is you only need to suffer known bad things.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065270)

The problem with this "science" is that it moves out of the lab before all of the science is done. Using the general population as guinea pigs is not cool. Especially when the GMO pushers do things like buy legislation to make it illegal to label the food as GM so not only are we guinea pigs, we don't even have a choice.

Whatever your beliefs about the level of risk and the appropriate methods of mitigation, this argument has devolved from the original point - which is simply that saying "we only splice in natural genes so it is safe" is logically unsound. It's wrong when the crunchy granola hippies say it about "all natural" food supplements and it's wrong when ideonexus says it about GMO foods.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065486)

You have not really established why GMO are necessary or desirable to humanity at large. They don't increase the world's food supply - the most common application is making plants resistant to a weedkiller marketed by the same company as the GMO seeds - this merely increases the amount of cash in the manufacturer's pocket while exposing the customers to toxic residue.

Also, these GMO are made sterile so that the farmers can't use seeds from one year's crop to plant the next like they have traditionally done - this is a huge *risk* to the world's food supply. If a farmer has a bad year, he suddenly can't farm anymore. This leads to increase in food prices, more demand for seeds and therefore higher seed prices - witness what has happened to food prices in recent years. More people will starve because GMO makes it more costly to farm.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065416)

Humans have been making mistakes for millenia: leaded petrol, tobacco, untreated industrial emissions, bloodletting, routine X-ray overdoses, CFCs, MRSA, feral cats/pigs/ferrets, dropping Agent Orange on forests, RMS Titanic, etc. We're stronger than ever for it. You know what? I'm happy I'm not in a forest fighting bears, a farm tilling soil, a factory shovelling coal or any of the horrific lives that shortsighted morons at the time felt were good enough. I dearly hope my great great great grandchildren will be happy they don't live the shitty existence we have now. If some mad scientist accidently kills a few thousand people here or there to get there, so be it.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065800)

You do realize that what you are arguing is a false dichotomy. You are arguing that we must have mistakes that maim and kill hundreds of thousands in order to make progress. On the list of "mistakes" you've given, none of them were crucial to the advancement of beneficial technology.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065726)

That's been more true of most of recorded history than it is true now. When farmers were cultivating maize centuries ago, blindly mixing genes, they weren't optimizing for least carcinogenic or best for health. They were, in fact, mixing and matching without knowing what the outcome was going to be.

GMOs, on the other hand, are tested for health effects when they're made.

Furthermore, when you modify a strain of crops, you only are trying to modify it a little. When you use artificial selection to change your crops, you're usually changing quite a bit to get the desired outcome. The end result is that genetically modified crops have been found to be much more similar to their parent strain than "natural" strains are to each other. Source. [pnas.org]

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065836)

The problem with your analysis is that you've picked an arbitrary criteria - the quantity of different metabolites. That criteria says nothing about the quality of the metabolites.

For example, if a potato plant has 1000 metabolites and the GMO version also has 1000 metabolites, but 1 of those happens to be a tropane alkaloid and if the GMO version has 1000x more tropane alkaloid in it than the original version that would hardly count as much of a deviation only 0.1%. But you try eating one of those GMO potatoes and you'll die.

On the other hand, you mix and match two naturally occurring breeds of non-toxic potatoes, the chances of you getting a new breed with toxic levels of tropane alkaloids is pretty small, even if 100s of those 1000 metabolites have different levels.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064508)

So what happens when we start splicing genes into organisms that don't exist in nature?

Evolution.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064536)

Cyanide is all natural but it doesn't mean it's good for you. There are many problems with casually adding genes to plants and animals. There's already been people having allergic reactions to things like engineered corn. We are bound to run onto allergies we've never seen before since some combinations are new to nature. There's also an assumption that it always strengthens plants. The truth is they tend to make the plants flourish only under very specific conditions where as natural plants are more adaptable. Why is that a problem? Crop failures for one. Another thing people don't talk about is the frankenstein nature of the plants themselves. I've seen lots of pictures of deformed corn that was GM. And no it isn't normal. I grew up in corn country and I've never seen anything like the mutations you get from GM crops. I had a neighbor when I lived in Maine last year that planted some corn. It was a small patch less than 10'X10' and yet he had several deformed plants. The worse was a plant that developed ears but no stalk. Literally the ears formed a ring around the root bundle and laid on the ground. He asked me if I had ever seen that happen before and I assured him I hadn't. I have no way to prove the seed had been contaminated by CG corn or was in fact GM but in all my years the only time I had ever seen anything like that were photos and film of GM crops. The problem is the genes don't below where they are and they are weakening the crops. Remember this isn't about feeding people this is about profits. We've already increased crop production until the soil is at the breaking point. The solution to starvation isn't more chemicals and genetic engineering it's fewer people. We're struggling now to feed what people there so what happens when it hits 10 billion or even 15 billion? There's simply no way to double food production especially when much of the current farmland is facing droughts. We can't keep expecting science to save us from ourselves.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (3, Insightful)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064774)

Yes, it's a dilemma.

On the one hand, GM foods might pose a risk somewhere in the future, but lots of really smart people have been trying to quantify and identify what these risks might be, to no effect.

On the other hand, people are starving *now*. I'm all for safety, but can we eat first?

People are scared because in the past we've made mistakes. For example, DDT accumulates, and causes problems higher up in the food chain. On the other hand, DDT was not fatal, it was not an extinction-level event, we noticed the risks and stopped.

It's the future, we've learned a great deal, and we're being more careful. It's much less *likely* that we'll be making these types of mistakes overall. Mistakes will still be made, but that's inevitable whatever we do. When it happens, we'll identify the causes, change the conditions and move on.

I'm willing to allow the possibility that a percentage of the world's poor will have some as-yet-undiscovered problem (which may be an inconvenience or may be life-threatening) in exchange for reducing the immediate suffering of massive populations of people *now*.

It's a typical risk/reward tradeoff, something we make every day, such as driving a car. Take the path where the benefits outweigh the risks.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

reasterling (1942300) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065366)

I once heard, though I personaly can't verify, that we don't have a food production problem, but rather a distribution and economic problem.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

physicsphairy (720718) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064904)

Today's genes 'that don't exist in nature' are tomorrow's genes that do. Organisms naturally acquire new genes and new gene combinations; hence, evolution. I don't see why we would trust random cosmic radiation with unknowable mutagenic capacity more than we would trust the carefully tested and purposeful work of dedicated scientists. Nor is it really relevant to its biological effects whether a new protein comes from a lab or a paramecium--it's going to be equally alien to our anatomy either way.

All in all, you should probably be less concerned about the weirder stuff. The bigger and weirder the protein, the less likely it is to interfere with normal cellular processes.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37066456)

Just would like to point one thing out. Evolution is a random change without a specified target. Genetic engineering is not random, and there is a target - to change the organism to be more suitable for our purposes. And that also applies to cross-breeding - it's still purposeful even if done using more "natural" way.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

cpricejones (950353) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065002)

As the article notes, this has been done with all sorts of amino acids in E. coli. In fact, "amber suppression" is a fairly common way to introduce any amino acid you want into your protein. Commonly they are uniquely reactive amino acids for labeling a protein site-specifically for experiments to gain insight into the protein's function. (I'm actually doing this in my lab to look at the function of an HIV protein.)

With E. coli, introducing the extra amino acid doesn't usually confer an advantage because 1) the extra amino acid cannot be synthesized by E. coli, 2) even if you give E. coli the pathway to make that amino acid, proteins wont really need the extra amino acid (there is no selective advantage). This is a much bigger change than just introducing a gene into an organism—it's giving the organism an extra amino acid. 3) Organisms like methanogenic bacteria, which naturally encode an extra amino acid pyrrolysine, have this extra amino acid because their energy source relies upon (i.e., methane fixation, a rather difficult chemical reaction, requiring an electrophile).

So I would argue that this type of technology is rather safe. The organism would have to make a pretty huge leap to actually use the amino acid for a different purpose.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065428)

So far in the Genetically Modified Foods debate, I've been arguing that, since the genes spliced into GMOs are genes that already exist in nature, GMOs really aren't the nightmarish cancer-causing foodstuffs people make them out to be and that GM foods are the only way we're going to support a population of 7 billion people on this planet just as nitrogen-fixing fertilizer caused a green revolution that allows us to support our current population size.

Congrats on the 76-word, 380-character un-genetically-modified sentence!

On a more serious note, that is an interesting concern. Of course the original organisms had to be _genetically modified_ to incorporate this unnatural amino acid. But that may not imply that if we or something else eat that organism something might not run amok. I'm not one to shy away from new technology, but this raise a lot of important questions.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065476)

Things exist in nature do kill human too. Virus, bacteria, radon gas, etc.
Is a thing natural and is it dangerous has no necessary correlation.

Re:Does This Present a Dilemma? (1)

Walkingshark (711886) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065874)

Well, considering the green revolution and GMO foods have already given us the soy and corn based diet that is slowly fattening us up and then killing us (due to all the diseases related to either obesity or increased inflammation), I kind of feel like maybe we're already in deep enough shit. Fucking around with our food at a fundamental chemical level seems like a whole new level of wtf. Then again, people gotta eat. I don't know what the solution is, other than buy less useless shit from Wal Mart and spend more money buying higher quality food.

What's with the glowing? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064300)

Seriously. Every time I hear about genes being crammed into some other species or amino acids being pushed where they "don't belong", something starts glowing. What's the deal with glowies, did they play too much WoW and now thing only if it glows it's epic or what?

Re:What's with the glowing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064362)

Because glowing is the easiest way to tell if the technique worked and what parts of the organism it worked in the most.

Re:What's with the glowing? (1)

Iron (III) Chloride (922186) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064556)

Basically this. Glowing is one of the most easily measurable markers, without the need for any fancy tools or followup experimental procedures other than perhaps your fluorescent microscope (the other would probably be viability, but that kills the organism which you may not actually want). There's a reason green fluorescent protein won the chem Nobel prize a few years back.

Re:What's with the glowing? (1)

Taty'sEyes (2373326) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064378)

Haven't you watched a single b-horror flick - monsters glow! But seriously, I think it is so they can be quickly identified within a population... icbwt

Re:What's with the glowing? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064744)

They want a demonstration of their result that has visual impact.

Glowing for tracing (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064804)

Seriously. Every time I hear about genes being crammed into some other species or amino acids being pushed where they "don't belong", something starts glowing. What's the deal with glowies, did they play too much WoW and now thing only if it glows it's epic or what?

Glowing is a way for scientists to monitor gene expression. You can't really watch it on its own, so you incorporate the gene you are working with with a fluorescent protein. Then the gene you are interested in will be expressed with the fluorescent protein, allowing you to see when and where your gene is being expressed.

That also gives you a way to monitor the noise of the system; if you are trying to deploy something with good control but your critter glows green all the time, you need to adjust something.

And in case you weren't already familiar with it, the protein of choice for most of the "glowies" you describe is Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) - a protein that is made naturally by some jellyfish. Some clever individuals isolated and manipulated it a while ago for biochemical work.

Re:What's with the glowing? (1)

structural_biologist (1122693) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064902)

In the case of this study, the researchers are tricking the worm to incorporate an unnatural amino acid in the place of a stop codon (TAG to be specific). The researchers created an reporter gene that codes for a red fluorescent protein (mCherry) after a TAG stop codon. If the worm is not able to incorporate the unnatural amino acid, the cell will stop producing the protein once it encounters the TAG stop codon and not produce the red fluorescent part of the reporter gene. Successful incorporation of the unnatural amino acid, however, allows the cell to bypass the TAG stop codon and produce the red fluorescent part of the reporter gene. So, even though the unnatural amino acid is not directly producing the fluorescence, seeing the worms glowing red means that the worm's cells were able to incorporate the unnatural amino acid successfully.

Re:What's with the glowing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065136)

Was about to ask the same thing!
I was tempted to post a link on facebook to the article the other day about Korean scientist making a dog glow with the headline "Local restaurants find innovative way to cut down on power bills" but I thought better of it...

Re:What's with the glowing? (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 3 years ago | (#37066320)

Tbh, I'd LOVE to have the ability to glow in the dark or in UV light. Damn, that'd be cool :D

So this is where the zombie virus comes from (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064332)

I was wondering how the virus was going to get developed. Now we know.

Am I the only one.... (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064388)

...who read 'orgasm' instead of 'organism'?

Re:Am I the only one.... (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064474)

Came here to say this.

So you're not the only one. There are at least two sick bastages.

Re:Am I the only one.... (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064736)

Yeah, that's what I thought as well. So you arent alone

Re:Am I the only one.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065398)

That's better than what I read every time I see "large hadron collider"

Re:Am I the only one.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065622)

Can't have one without the other, but one another can without.

Just say NO to GMO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064412)

There's a lot of reassuring comments about genetically modifed organisms, as well as dreams for a better tomorrow, but it all sort of reminds me of the last great scientific revolution, the Chemical Revolution. Chemistry is clean, is nice, will offer us so many modern conveniences! Now, decades later, our best minds are all saying, "Wow, we didn't think of that." Cancer and heart disease of the big killers now, and not just of old people, but children too. Life expectancy for adults has not gone up drastically in the last two centuries, and most of that is due to sanitation and hygiene.

So maybe I'm being pessimistic, and the Genetic Revolution really will deliver on its promise. But remember the last time the best and brightest sold us on a new way of making things, and how (a) the net benefit is a lot less than was expected, and (b) the horrors created were worse than what was imagined.

I hope I'm wrong.

Re:Just say NO to GMO (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#37064848)

Chemistry is clean, is nice, will offer us so many modern conveniences! Now, decades later, our best minds are all saying, "Wow, we didn't think of that."

What crap. Whilst there may be side effects of long term build up of chemicals that are discovered after they are in use, it does not mean that we should forsake all chemicals "just in case". And it is not as if scientists do not put a lot of effort into determining the safety of chemicals. They will never have a 100% success rate, but benefits do outweigh the risks.

Cancer and heart disease of the big killers now, and not just of old people, but children too. Life expectancy for adults has not gone up drastically in the last two centuries, and most of that is due to sanitation and hygiene.

Cancer and heart disease were big killers in the past too, but we didn't understand them. A lot of things killed us in the past that we could not identify. That is why we needed to make up gods to attribute the causes. Just because we now have a better understanding of what is killing us, doesn't mean that these things didn't kill us in the past.

And where do you get the idea that life expectancy has not gone up? That is demonstrably wrong. Here are the stats from my neck of the woods [aihw.gov.au] . I would say that better nutrition and medicine plays a bigger part in this increase than sanitation and hygiene as you suggest. You know, the stuff that science gave us.

And all this is despite the extra chemicals, radiation, and automobiles that this century has brought us.

And somebody please call Fox Mulder! (1)

Reservoir Penguin (611789) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065894)

This has project Purity Control written all over it.

Designed organism is Designed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064606)

Not quite as overt a "signature" as, say, merging two entire chromosomes to delineate uniqueness, but, hey, it's early.

Or late, maybe.

Cure to all infections? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064650)

Lets assume extensive switch of amino acids - creating incompatibility with existing viruses. What and how this kind of organism will eat, is another question...

Just keep it out of my tequila (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37064892)

Just keep it out of my tequila. I can see all the new glow in the dark cocktails that will come out of this.

HIV Research (1)

nbetcher (973062) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065240)

Does this discovery have any affect on HIV research?

Re:HIV Research (1)

cpricejones (950353) | more than 3 years ago | (#37065306)

Not really. It could allow future use of amber suppression in higher eukaryotes, esp those that are models for HIV / SIV study (primates, mice, cats/FIV). That is still far off.

Standards compliance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065542)

I think you are all missing a key point here. earlier you could capture the essence of an organism by sequencing its dna. This discovery changes that. Now we will have DNA, DNA-Extended, DNA-X, DNA 1.3. etc.
I imagine that to program for such a platform, we would have to invent jQuery all over again, in DNA.

Am I the only one who read this as... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37065902)

Scientists Modify Orgasm With Artificial Amino Acid

Patents anyone? (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 3 years ago | (#37066086)

It was a hard enough fight to keep genes un-patentable, and in some parts of the world that fight was even lost. What is the impact of non-natural genes in patentability? Is the fight open again?
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