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DNA So Dangerous It Doesn't Exist

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the scramble-your-genes dept.

Biotech 454

Panaqqa writes "A group of researchers at Boise State University is investigating the theory that there are genome sequences so dangerous they are incompatible with life. Greg Hampikian, a professor of genetics, and his team are comparing all possible short sequences of nucleotides to databases of gene sequences to determine which ones don't exist in nature. The New Scientist reports that the US Department of Defense is interested enough in their work to have awarded them a $1 million grant. I for one am not sure I like the possible directions this research could take."

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454 comments

Sounds Like the Funniest Joke in the World (5, Funny)

ztransform (929641) | more than 7 years ago | (#17455926)

Just like the Monty Python sketch "the Funniest Joke in the World" [wikipedia.org], developing something that kills itself too quickly isn't going to get propagated far without a lot of effort!

Re:Sounds Like the Funniest Joke in the World (1, Informative)

zuiraM (1027890) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456228)

You can avoid burnout with a bit of genetic engineering.

For instance, if you could modify the common cold into two strains that, when combined, cause the original strain to be reassembled in the victim, then you could choose two patient zero groups with a wide geographical spacing and watch the clock tick.

The real issue is choosing the right way to limit burnout and then finding a way to control them, so they can be applied as anything other than WMDs, although the US has displayed its eagerness to deploy WMDs in the past.

Of course, such a strain of anything might be a couple of mutations short of an extinction event, but that has never bothered anyone actually working on these things or funding them to the extent that it stopped "progress".

Re:Sounds Like the Funniest Joke in the World (2, Informative)

De_Boswachter (905895) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456334)

"developing something that kills itself"

This is different. Long double-stranded DNA molecules (up to several kilobases) can be synthesized chemically in large quantities without using organisms. These can then be introduced into organisms by transfection. If the organisms die, the DNA is lethal.

Re:Sounds Like the Funniest Joke in the World (2, Interesting)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456544)

> Just like the Monty Python sketch "the Funniest Joke in the World", developing something that kills itself too quickly isn't going
> to get propagated far without a lot of effort!

It reminds me of the book "A Higher Form of Killing" (by Jeremy Paxman (yeah, *that* Paxman) and Robert Harris) which has this quote from a House Appropriations hearing in 1969:

"Within the next five to ten years it would probably be possible to make a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important respects from any known disease-causing organisms. Most important of these is that it might be refractory to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease."

Sounds like AIDS, doesn't it, and the first reported cases of AIDS were discovered in 1982.

Re:Sounds Like the Funniest Joke in the World (5, Insightful)

bloodredsun (826017) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456670)

But forensic analyses of blood has found cases well before 1969 (the earliest definite is 1959), and current research has the earliest cases at some time in the 1930's.

So no it doesn't sound like AIDS was manufactured.

Suicide genes? (3, Interesting)

BlackMesaLabs (893043) | more than 7 years ago | (#17455934)

Suicide genes that can be activated at a later date?
I - am - not - a - machi --*Boom*

Re:Suicide genes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17455946)

Doesn't sound like a good idea to me....

Hmmm... paradox? (2, Insightful)

liquid_rince (902265) | more than 7 years ago | (#17455964)

Maybe these 'dangerous' sequences are simply too broken to allow something to live.

Imagine a mouse with a DNA sequence that makes it want to run into mousetraps when it reaches a certain age. Obviously something like won't have much of a chance to procreate.

Re:Hmmm... paradox? (4, Interesting)

ArsenneLupin (766289) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456004)

Imagine a mouse with a DNA sequence that makes it want to run into mousetraps when it reaches a certain age. Obviously something like won't have much of a chance to procreate.
You mean, like toxoplasmosis [wikipedia.org]?

Re:Hmmm... paradox? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456162)

Yeah, probably kinda like that in behavior, but encoded genetically as opposed to a parasite's influence.

Re:Hmmm... paradox? (2, Insightful)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456072)

Obviously something like won't have much of a chance to procreate.
While higher lifeforms will not readily use them, these DNA sequences might be quite handy for a mutating virus to latch onto. I hope they are very careful with their experiments.

Re:Hmmm... paradox? (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456166)

I hope they are very careful with their experiments.

Indeed,we wouldn't want a petri dish to catch cold.

KFG

Re:Hmmm... paradox? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456672)

If the Petrie dish caught a cold over this Rob would be furious and likely to stumble over the couch trying to get to whomever was responsible.

*40ish year old humor, feel free to ignore it, but Laura was cute.

Re:Hmmm... paradox? (5, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456176)

Undoubtedly the plot of the fourth Indiana Jones movie.

"Doctor Jones? We'd like you to find the lost macguffin of death that kills anything with DNA before the Nazis find it. Oh, and the French Dr. Sneeringfart, your longterm rival, is already on the trail."

A few scenes from the movie:

Dr S: "Fine wine - too bad you won't live to enjoy it, Jones!"

Indy: "Snakes on a plane? Why does it always have to be snakes on a plane!?"

Indy: "There was an ancient legend that the Aztecs put this in the cocoa of their enemies. DNA incompatible with human life! It's like a bad dream of science!"

Explorer babe: "Oh, Indy, ignore that tiny bottle of deadly DNA and pay some attention to MY DNA!!"

Er, I expect the title will be, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Lost Biowarfare.

Re:Hmmm... paradox? (5, Informative)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456248)

Um, actually no. At a certain point it becomes more fit for an organism to die. The gene pool and species as a whole evolve, not the individuals. There is a reason old people tend to stop healing, and more so when they aren't needed. Taking up resources and dragging down your family is a bad thing, so at a certain age genes tend to help kill off individuals rather than help them live longer.

Genes which kill you off when you are a drain on the gene pool are more fit. They tend to help the other individuals in the larger group, many with that same gene. So the gene helps itself by helping others... and killing its possessor.

Re:Hmmm... paradox? (1)

zuiraM (1027890) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456256)

Actually, if this happens a few weeks past sexual maturity, it will be an enormous advantage for the species, although not for the individual. Such a mutation would be assured survival if the original mutant was allowed to procreate, barring unforseen accidents that wipe out that subpopulation.

DoD ? (1, Troll)

skahshah (603640) | more than 7 years ago | (#17455966)

Given (most of ?) the research made by the DoD, maybe it should change its name to Department of Attack ? Or Murder Inc. ?

Re:DoD ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17455978)

The ministry of peace perhaps?

I think some of the nice men who work for miniluv would like a word.

Re:DoD ? (4, Informative)

richieb (3277) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456086)

It used to be called the Department of War. It was changed after WW II.

Re:DoD ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456092)

I prefer "Dial-a-Stab"...

Re:DoD ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456148)

Actually, it used to be named Department of War. Until people decided war was nasty, around 1930-1940 sometime

Re:DoD ? (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456422)

Yes, and oh my gosh... just think what would happen if they studied super viruses or biological agents that can be weaponized. Oh wait... they do that and it enables them to detect and work to protect against those things.

Ignorance is not security.

I'm also not blind to the risks here... it's dangerous stuff that needs to monitored and controlled.

Re:DoD ? (0, Troll)

db32 (862117) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456436)

I can't believe this trite got modded up as insightful. Quit crying. Turn off your computer. Stop using your car. Don't ever fly commercial flight. You had better not ever check the weather channel. And you had absolutely better not ever go to a doctor for anything, definitely any sort of trauma injury. Because your little Department of Attack mindless left crybaby nonsense is who brought major advances in all of those areas. In fact, it wasn't to long ago that there was a story here about medicine and how the pharm companies just develop symptom treatments to bleed everyone for money, while the military research develops cures and vaccines because they are more interested in fixing the problem quickly.

I swear to God, its every few stories someone makes some moronic comment about the military on here and the sheep flock to it. If you want to cry about a group cry about the elected body that controls the military. Once again I would like to thank you for helping to stop progress and allow the far right to keep a tight grip by making anyone left of their agenda look stupid.

Re:DoD ? (5, Insightful)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456654)

I have to agree with another child post. Let me give you some non-violent and important examples of the DoD's research.
1. The Internet. You are using it now. It was originally created by ARPA, now DARPA, which is part of the DoD. You can thank the need for a interconnected, wired (and unwired) network for computer systems the military was using for the "Birth of the Internet."
2. GPS. Another advance that came from a military need.
3. Computers. Not entirely DoD based, but ENIAC was built for calculating artillery firing tables for the US Army, which falls under what is now the DoD.

Those are just three I can think of pretty readily without having to go digging for information. Do they do other research into weapons? Yes. Is it all to make things more deadly? Not necessarily. It is really to make them more effective and efficient. A lot of these researches are done in an attempt to save soldiers' lives and to prevent civilian casualties. A lot of their medical research is along the same vein. If not for some dumb laws (created by the US government), I wouldn't be surprised if the DoD was dumping tons of money into stem-cell research too. Trust me, it isn't all bad.

welcome (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456008)

I for one welcome our dangerous life incompatible genome sequence overlords.

Last night I had a premonition of racial weapons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456016)

Sitting on the bus home, I considered what might happen if chemical weapons could be developed that attacked based on DNA sequences.

Think about it for a moment, it's horrifying.

Re:Last night I had a premonition of racial weapon (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456078)

I've been thinking about the same thing.


Imagine how easily we could get rid of all the niggers, kikes and ragheads.

Re:Last night I had a premonition of racial weapon (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456100)

Actually, Israel has a project going to identify genetic sequences in Arabs that could be used in biological warfare. I wish I was making this up, but I'm not. My worry is that someday they have a lab accident and this stuff gets out and accidently kills off humanity through unforeseen side effects.

Re:Last night I had a premonition of racial weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456238)

Well, as the Israeli say: "Make sure it never happens again... to us!"

Re:Last night I had a premonition of racial weapon (3, Interesting)

zuiraM (1027890) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456288)

I'd consider it more likely that a lab "accident" causes it to kill off the Palestinian population, or possibly even the majority of the Arab world. All it takes is one wrong person in the right place at the right time. And the majority of current leaders in Israel fit every criterion but "right time" at the moment.

Of course, I'd hate for them to pick up this idea, but they've probably thought about it already:

If they are willing to sacrifice the majority of their population as well, they could create a biological weapon that targets everyone except the Ashkenazi jews. That particular group is probably one of the most studied groups out there because they almost never breed with outsiders, so tons of interesting stuff can be found from their DNA. (Note that I'm using the word "breed" as a technical, not derogatory, term here)

Re:Last night I had a premonition of racial weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456314)

Aren't Jews and Arabs quite close genetically? They look quite similar. I'd imagine a virus that kills one would probably kill the other as well. Sounds like a good idea anyway.

Re:Last night I had a premonition of racial weapon (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456372)

Oh knock it off you Nazi scumbag.

  Prove it or get out of here.

Re:Last night I had a premonition of racial weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456500)

Or--knowing Israel--that it will be used, and have unforeseen side effects (as in a certain Babylon 5 [midwinter.com] episode).

Hopefully (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456614)

Hopefully Israel will be successful so we can finally be rid of the dune coons. The world would be much better without those camel jockey sandniggers blowing things up.

Might as well imagine shrink rays. (5, Informative)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456318)

Well that's just stupid. "Race" isn't really anything. There are very few genes which actually differ between such groups. You'd think maybe Asians have genes for their eyes but that same gene exists elsewhere... take a look at Bjork. You'd really be shooting yourself in the foot. As for the difference between Jews and Arabs, there aren't many. As in none, genetically you can't tell them apart.

Let's say you wanted to kill all blonds. You make a virus that becomes active when it contacts the sequence for blond hair. Assuming you did something to make sure the recessive gene didn't just strike carriers too, you'd end killing blonds and gingers. Ginger is simply red-red, blond-blond genes, whereas blonds are Not-red-* blond-blond. Not-red is a dominate gene, whereas red is recessive.

Really, you'd want to do the old death camp method. You need to sort them out based on a rather non-existent grouping... that is something only racists can do, not viruses.

You think there is some gene that defines a race... there really isn't. There are certain genes which exist in varied frequency but none that are that isolated. You might be able to wipe out a village with some rare mutation but, otherwise you're going to create something that just starts killing people off pretty much at random.

Re:Might as well imagine shrink rays. (5, Funny)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456374)

Assuming you did something to make sure the recessive gene didn't just strike carriers too, you'd end killing blonds and gingers.
What's so bad about that? We all know that gingers have no souls [wikipedia.org].

Red Power!

Re:Last night I had a premonition of racial weapon (1)

TTLof1MIN (1022923) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456396)

There was one Racial WMD program against black people in south africa when they had that Apartheid shit going on, it had something to do with circle cells, I think that is a cell type that only black africans have.

Re:Last night I had a premonition of racial weapon (2, Informative)

crowbarsarefornerdyg (1021537) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456610)

There was one Racial WMD program against black people in south africa when they had that Apartheid shit going on, it had something to do with circle cells, I think that is a cell type that only black africans have.
You're thinking of Sickle Cell Anemia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sickle_cell_anemia [wikipedia.org]). And it affects not only Africans, but affect anyone, regardless of race. Sickle Cell Anemia is an extremely painful disease, because the normally round red blood cells form into a sickle shape, causing them to get trapped in the vessels. It causes swelling due to blood backup in the capillaries, and can seriously damage your organs. Please, before making a comment such as this, do a bit of research.

Exactly (5, Insightful)

WasterDave (20047) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456020)

I for one am not sure I like the possible directions this research could take.

Well, quite. Gene replacement therapy with ones that aren't compatible with life. At all. A project run by the US DOD. "Bound to end in tears" doesn't even start to cover it. Great.

Dave

Re:Exactly (1)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456402)

>"Bound to end in tears" doesn't even start to cover it.
Both a well deserved insightful AND one of the best lines ever on /. Good work dude!

Re:Exactly (2, Insightful)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456470)

A project run by the US DOD. "Bound to end in tears" doesn't even start to cover it.

You are so totally right because DoD funded projects are always massive failures or horrible weapons. Oh wait... there's the Internet and OpenBSD.

Re:Exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456618)

Well I can agree with your first point, as for the second I'm not sure BSD has killed anyone yet...

I though it was an other 'idea' like ID (4, Funny)

sodul (833177) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456040)

When I first read the title I though it was about a new theory of some religious group trying to say that DNA is dangerous because it proves the theory of evolution so some school board declared that it does not exist.

Maybe there is some DNA that codes for 666 or that translates to "Hell freezes over".

But I know that DNA is really coding 42.

Re:I though it was an other 'idea' like ID (2, Insightful)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456478)

Yeah cause it would suck if "some religious" group used science to disprove a scientific theory. Science is science man... it doesn't matter if it's conducted by the most dedicated atheist or a devout Christian. It's the science that matters.

Re:I though it was an other 'idea' like ID (1)

SRA8 (859587) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456604)

Reminds me of Ice-9 from Cat's Cradle, except biological.

A million dollars?? (5, Interesting)

teslar (706653) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456104)

From TFA:
To do this, Hampikian and his colleage Tim Anderson, also at Boise, have developed software that calculates all the possible sequences of nucleotides - the "letters" of DNA - up to a certain length, and then scans sequence databases such as the US National Institutes of Health's Genbank to identify the smallest sequences that aren't present.
So, basically, it's one regexp and a database lookup. Which is fine (how else would you do it?) but all this requires is one afternoon of PhD time followed by a lot of computer crunching. Even if you buy a very shiny very fast dedicated computer for this, where do the remaining 990 000 dollars go?

Re:A million dollars?? (4, Informative)

teslar (706653) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456138)

Ah well, reading the rest of TFA (yeah I know, should have done that before, but hey :) ):
He has already received a $1 million grant from the US Department of Defense to develop a DNA "safety tag" that could be added to voluntary DNA reference samples in criminal cases to distinguish them from forensic samples. Such tags would not necessarily have to consist of lethal sequences, but could be based on primes that would be easy to detect using a simple kit.
So the /. summary was misleading, the DoD isn't actually after lethal DNA sequences at all and that is not where the money's going.

Re:A million dollars?? (3, Insightful)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456450)

I hope you're not serious that a "shinny very fast dedicated computer" costs $10k. You can easily spend $100k on a good computer and of course science is driving these massive supercomputing clusters that probably cost $10k/day to operate. Anyways... back to your question.

where do the remaining 990 000 dollars go?

Salaries to pay the PhDs to process and analyze the data and tune the software and not go to China or Russia or someone else who'd like to know more about this stuff.

3 years at BSU has taught me.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456572)

....that the remaining 990 000 dollars obviously go to BSU's football team.

stupid (5, Insightful)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456110)

He is presenting his results at the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing in Maui, Hawaii, this week.
That is pathetic claim to importance. The only reason it reached the top /. page is paranoia prevalent at /. The whole research smells pseudo-science at the distance between Hawaii and East Coast (where the government are, but they do not smell it, of course).

Especially stupid are searches for amino-acid sequences. Some of the sequences do not make structural sense, obviously.

And what about "dangerous"? Obviously, if the sequence is so crappy that it makes the working conformation of every structural RNA or protein disfunctional then it won't be reproduced. Never.

More interesting would be to find out why some sequences are not encountered also in non-coding areas. But "danger"???

Give me a break. This is as stupid as stupid goes.

Re:stupid (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456154)

Pathetic resume [nih.gov] of the PI.

5 references in PubMed! First reference in 1986! Come on. I have more references. And none of his references are him being first or last author.

In twenty years - 5 publications relevant to the field?

Re:stupid (1)

stupid_is (716292) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456386)

More here [boisestate.edu]. Considering his MS in Genetics was awarded in 1986, I would have been surprised to see references from much earlier than that, although maybe when he was an RA in Dermatology he could've done something.

Re:stupid (1)

pgolik (526039) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456538)

Still, not much of a publication record for someone so long in the business. Seems he is just very good at getting government money and jumped on the bioterrorism bandwagon. And as others have said - he'll identify mostly amino acid sequences that do not form stable folds. Actually, most proteins are built using a relatively small set of blocks or folds (think Lego) - cf. the CATH database http://www.cathdb.info/ [cathdb.info], so finding sequences that do not occur naturally would not surprise me.

Re:stupid (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456262)

Give me a break. This is as stupid as stupid goes.

No, that would be the idea that their ought to be a law requiring that phonorecordings have lyrics printed on the outside of the cover; so little Johnny wouldn't be exposed to the bad language in the song that just says "Fuck me!" over and over and over for 10 minutes.

We'll put this guy down for an honorable mention, unless he gets his grant. That might provide prima facie evidence of at least a certain street smarts.

And that real science really is dead, but we knew that already. Netcraft has confirmed it.

KFG

Re:stupid (1)

Fist! Of! Death! (1038822) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456430)

It will probably find sequences that make human flesh so tasty to predators that evolution sorted them out millions of years ago.
It's all a ruse - MacDonalds is funding this research - McSoylent Green, McSOYLENT GREEN!!!!!!!

Re:stupid - not so stupid (1)

MjDelves (811950) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456682)

I don't know anything about the credentials of this research lab but the project does seem interesting. There are lots of published papers showing that short peptide sequences (~10 amino acids (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db= pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=16 135080&query_hl=4&itool=pubmed_docsum) [nih.gov]have potent effects on processes such as neural development, cell differentiation, cell survival etc. Whilst 10aa equates to 30 base pairs in DNA which is 3x bigger than those going to be investigated in the article, it just goes to show that there could be out there random sequences of DNA which could be translated into toxic peptides. It's not all doom and gloom - Imagine coupling a masked "kill" sequence to an antibody targeted to cancer cells - upon reaching it's target, through proteolytic degradation it could be converted into a potential anticancer drug. Discoveries such as these don't necessarily have to spell destruction to the world.

This is the worst use of $1M!!! (5, Interesting)

EvoDevo (951991) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456178)

First of all, I am doing research in computational biology. I just read the paper linked from his webpage at http://biology.boisestate.edu/hampikian [boisestate.edu] and I have to say that this is one of the worse papers I have ever read. First of all, I can literally write a program to do all that he proposed in about 10 minutes. Give me the $1 mil, I'll do the research. Although the idea of systematically finding nullomers can have practical applications, there is ABSOLUTELY ZERO evidence that they are incompatible with life. And wow, isn't this the eye catching title that we see on /. The numbers of nullomers that he found in the human genome, for example, looks like they are in line with expectation given a genome genome that is AT rich (more A and T nucleotides than G / C nucleotide). Because the human genome is finite (only about 3 billion nucleotides), of course you are going to find DNA sequence even at only 11 bases long that do not exist in the human genome. Just do the math! 4^11 = 4.2 billion. It makes me so furious that our government wastes so much money on useless stuff.

Re:This is the worst use of $1M!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456394)

Remember, DoD grants are not subject to a panel or a jury of peers. Projects are granted by the program manager alone. The better you know him, the more likely it is to get your project funded. Also $1 mio is low funding from DoD.

Re:This is the worst use of $1M!!! (1)

gargleblast (683147) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456428)

Of course you are going to find DNA sequence even at only 11 bases long that do not exist in the human genome. Just do the math! 4^11 = 4.2 billion

Beg pardon but 4^11 = 4194304 ~= 4.2 million.

Of course Hampikian is a tosspot with a $1M grant. Qoth the article:

There may also be some [DNA or protein sequences] that are lethal in some species, but not others

There may indeed! Furthermore, they may be commonly known as venoms.

Re:This is the worst use of $1M!!! (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456494)

You're just jealous because you didn't think of this idea to get a $1mil grant :)

Run for the hills (5, Interesting)

Adam J Stone (1018520) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456182)

There may also be some that are lethal in some species, but not others. We're looking for those sequences.

This article reminds me of a doomsday hypothesis I once read. Daniel Pouzzner [mega.nu] posted this some time ago on his website:

It is quite likely that the Endangered Species Act and similar policies will continue to be enforced, setting large areas of land (and associated natural resources) out of the reach of interested industries. Corporations in these industries will create a demand for black market genetic bullet engineering, by which obstacle species can be purged, freeing the land for industrial exploitation. The profit motive is overwhelming; the resources at issue are worth trillions of today's dollars annually. An engineer who can target species on demand can obviously target humans, or even subsets of humans, if he wants to. Black markets by definition are not subject to regulatory scrutiny, and of course tend to be populated by unsavory and low characters. The environmentalist extremists (many of whom are well-financed or independently wealthy) will retain the services of some of these black market operators, to "fight back" (as they see it) on behalf of the species being targeted for/by the corporations. This will probably culminate in a doomsday bug.

tphis FP f0r GNAA (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456214)

Tired arguments devel0pme8t. BSD

From a programmers perspective (1)

$pearhead (1021201) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456230)

Ok, I'm not a DNA expert by any means, but doesn't DNA sequences bear some similarities to code/machine language (or maybe I'm just a nerd) ? I guess what they're saying is that there are bad/buggy/dangerous DNA sequences (code) that don't exist naturally. Does that mean that God is a good programmer?

suicide attack? (1)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456246)

DNA makes protein. Let's say there are DNA sequences which lead to protein so poisonous no cell can take it. Implant the DNA in a creature (plant/cell/animal). Whaaaw, now we have a creature which... kills itself??? It is not like there are no proteins available which are lethal to man but can be tolerated by other creatures: snake venom, certain plant extracts. The whole point of this is that no creature can take it.

Re:suicide attack? (1)

xero314 (722674) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456516)

The whole point of this is that no creature can take it.
The problem lies in what this research can lead to. Once you know what DNA sequences are incompatible with life, therefor killing anything that has this particular sequence, you could design a virus, probably a retrovirus, which could contain an RNA sequence which when reverse transcription to a host cell takes place causes one of these incompatible sequences in the Host cell. This could even be designed so that it would only produce the incompatible sequence if the host cell contained a specific sequence before transcription, ultimately leading to "designer viruses" that could target specific portions of the population with not possibility of a cure.

Mind you I don't hold a PhD in genetics so my description may not be technically right, but the premiss is certainly there and this kind of research definitely has negative potential.

Why I have a better proposition (2, Funny)

Kashgarinn (1036758) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456296)

I'd like a grant to theorise about a few things:

1) the "Rabbit that is so dangerous it can cut your head off"
- I believe most of my research will be around the castle Aaaaaargh.
2) The "Chuck Norris move that's so dangerous that it doesn't exist"
- Even chuck norris would perhaps have to spend more than 20 minutes researching it.
3) the "solution to the iraq war which is so useful it doesn't exist"
- and now I've passed from the plausible to the ridiculous, sorry about that.

K.

Eugenic Wars. (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456352)

As mankind reaches closer to controlling reality as a computer program, perhaps it is necessary for all countries to sign on a global contract on what should be allowed and what not. It may not ultimately save us from eugenic wars, but it will minimize the risk of someone toggling the life switch off at will.

In the future... (1)

Ingolfke (515826) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456384)

scientists will have solved the riddle of extending life to 1000 years and will sequence all of our genes so we die at age 72 because it's too expensive to offer state run healthcare to people over the age of 72.

Should read: DNA So Useless It Doesn't Exist (5, Insightful)

Mixel (723232) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456400)

Nature generally selects proteins that fold well, because it leads to some stable function. Nature therefore selects DNA sequences that code for such proteins. Rare/nonexistant DNA sequences code for rare/nonexistant proteins that are unlikely to have a stable fold. It is probably worth investigating just in case a few of those have interesting function. The research equivalent of going through someone's garbage. $1 million doesn't go very far these days, so it sounds about right. Why is this in the headlines, again?

Evil(TM) (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456442)

It's like scientifically searching for EVIL(TM).

Over a couple of Beers at the pub an interesting discussion, but NOT something one should really engage in.

yuo ufail it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456448)

are She ha3 taken

The original article (1)

splox (945011) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456474)

For those of you who would like to read the original article (and not just the summary in New Scientist), it is available here [stanford.edu].

Afraid? (4, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456476)

``I for one am not sure I like the possible directions this research could take.''

You mean that it could be used to manufacture new weapons? I don't know if having n+1 ways to kill is really much worse than having n ways, given that n is already as large as it is.

I know a word that doesn't exist... (5, Insightful)

highacnumber (988934) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456490)

Just like in DNA, there are words so dangerous that they don't exist. Here's one of them: sdlnfnerooij. Use it with care and send me the check. Most DNA does something, or is a slightly mutated version of a sequence that does something (like endogenous retroviruses). So its like a language with some spelling mistakes - of course there are lots of sequences that won't be there. And if you look at long enough strings, there have to be some missing.

So long & thanks for all the fish (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17456570)

In conclusion, we were right, it doesn't exist, thanks for the million bucks.

Words so dangerous they dont make sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17456608)

A group of PR hacks at Nowhere University is investigating the theory that there are word sequences so dangerous they are incomprehensible to life. Grog Hanky-napkin, a professor of pressreleaseology, and his team are comparing all possible short sequences of words to databases of soundbytes to determine which ones don't make any sense at all. The New Talking Head reports that the US Department of Defense is interested enough in their work to have awarded them a $1 grant. I for one am not sure I like the possible directions this research could take - because I can't figure out what in the ghod damn they're talking about.
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