Genomics is another name for genetic engineering; a technology that is booming now. In every research field say it agriculture, medicine, health, and safety, it is a game-changer. Here are the 15 facts about genomics that you can’t miss.
A minuscule flea has 31,000 genes:
Daphnia Pulex, a nearly microscopic crustacean, has the number of genes. Also called the water flea, it has a staggering 31,000 genes! This is 8000 more than us, the humans.
The Daphnia pulex genome is compact, yet it possesses greater functionality than the human genome. Amazingly, such an astonishing number of genes lay hidden in such a tiny creature.
On the flip side, this crustacean has 30,000 times fewer genes than a human:
Candidatus Carsonella Ruddii has only 159,662 letters in its genetic code. This isn’t a lot, considering the human genome is 6 billion characters. In fact, C. Ruddii is the world’s simplest life form. The human genetic code is 37,579 times bigger.
It’s fascinating that organisms can live on such a tiny scale. Yet, you never hear them complaining. Maybe less is more in genomics. That’s something to ponder on.
Dolly Sheep: the product of genetic engineering wasn’t perfect:
Dolly, the sheep resulted from genetic engineering and no doubt it was a fantastic animal. Perhaps only Laila, the space dog, surpasses her popularity. Dolly was born on July 5, 1996. But the news didn’t get out till seven months later.
Dolly is a sheep birthed from a mammary gland cell. She is popular globally for being the first animal cloned from an adult cell. Dolly was the only successful embryo to complete the whole gestational period among the 277 embryos. Not only Dolly survived, but she also produced normal offsprings. That’s what makes her special. Dolly lived for 6 and a half years. She suffered from multiple diseases and got euthanized.
I oppose the idea that human cloning is impossible, at least.
We still hope to retrieve mammoths:
Scientists tried to restore the extinct Pyrenean ibex in 2003. The animal also goes by the name “bucardo” in Spanish. Sadly, it died minutes after birth because of breathing difficulties.
The next enormous challenge is cloning a mammoth. Wooly mammoths that once roamed around East Asia are now extinct. It is theoretically possible to bring them back. But the steps involved are complex. It starts with securing an intact egg from an Asian elephant, the closest genetic match. We must fuse the nuclei of the wooly mammoth and the elephant. Finally, the embryo again returns to the mother for conception. This is a strenuous process. The major difficulty is finding mammoth cells. So far, intact mammoth carcasses have surfaced; yet they lack red blood cells, killing all the hopes. Getting the elephant egg out is also challenging, as experts opine. Further moral questions can also arise. In fact, elephants are highly social and intelligent. Will it be okay to introduce among them, a distant primitive ancestor? These questions are hindering progress in mammoth cloning.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) has Revolutionized Agriculture:
GMO stands for “Genetically Modified Organism”. It is the product organism with altered genetic makeup using genetic engineering technology. Modifications occur by transferring desired DNA bits across the organisms. Even a slight change in DNA can have a tremendous impact.
Similar technology has been used to produce modified crops with more yield and nutritional value. These crops have revolutionized the agricultural industry. These make up a clean and healthy solution to the yield and quality problems. Protein-enriched rice cures malnutrition in Africa. In Bangladesh, flood-resistant crops, and ring-spot resistant papayas have almost tripled the production recently.
Beauty will be meaningless:
In fact, one of the ultimate outcomes in genomics is “customizability”. And being capable of doing this, they will follow through with controlled mutation. If everyone will have perfect genes, what would be the meaning of beauty?
Personally, I have always found social intelligence more attractive, and it is genetic. So genomics may fix it. I think that moral values will comprise the most desirable traits. Things like caring, humanity, and humility will rule over any physical prowess.
The controversy is still aloft and gray areas abundant:
It doesn’t take a conservative to critique genomics. In fact, we’re undoing, redoing, and changing the normal flow of nature. Admittedly, this scares me.
Who will deal with the gray areas in genomics? What happens when an IVF baby or a Pyrenean ibex dies? Who takes the responsibility? These questions lack answers. No organization yet deals with the intricacies of morality in genomics. We need to set certain standardized rules.
Lobsters don’t age:
Did you know that lobsters don’t age? Yeah, it’s probably because of special telomeres on the ends of their long chromosomes.
The possibilities would be endless if we could implement lobster DNA in humans. It is important to remember that biological immortality differs from Tithonus’ fictional immortality. Lobsters aren’t immortal in real. They die, but not naturally. Do not stomp on a lobster.
Congenital disorders will disappear:
Because of advancements in genomics, studying autism at the molecular level has been useful. Besides, scientists have remodeled the disorders in rodents. Gene Therapy can treat monogenic disorders. An end to all kinds of birth defects isn’t far considering the CRISPR and IVF technologies. These techniques are promising for autistic and disabled people.
You can buy glowing fish ($5 a pop):
“Oh, my God!” was my reaction to seeing glowing fish for the very first time. There were two reasons: I didn’t know they were real, and second, I didn’t know they were this beautiful.
They come in all colors you can think of; electric green, sunburst orange, and cosmic blue are a few of them. The glowing fish are bright throughout its life and pass it on to their fries. A company called GloFish makes these. A small school costs $60. I heard that one costs just $5. Beware that GloFish decorate, not sustain.
Isn’t it shocking to read that ‘designer babies are possible’? With advanced birth technologies and the gene splicer (CRISPR Cas9), it seems likely that people can design their babies by introducing the desired characters and deleting the undesired ones.
From intelligence to athleticism, discussion floats amid mass controversy. Some see foolery where others see these advancements a genius step. Some see moral barriers where others dream big. Gene doping is already a question in sports. Once we overcome the moral barriers, designer babies will start trending. Many experts opine so.
Recombinant DNA yet promises tremendous breakthroughs:
The miracle of recombinant DNA technology has spread worldwide. It’s a buzzword in every biotechnology textbook that had brought an immense revolution in medical, pharmacy, agriculture, marine, etc.
From helping hungry kids in Africa to produce insulin, this technology has a vast application. Bumper yield and production of hybrid crops benefit the farmers. Overall, recombinant DNA technology has worked wonders since its onset.
The Myxobacteria can distinguish between self and other:
Myxobacteria are a bacterial group of 22 species. Researchers at the University of Wyoming recently confirmed the genetic defense system in them.
Proteins in their cells allow them to recognize similar genes. Similar bacteria combine to form multicellular organisms. Thus, together they become stronger. A lethal dose can kill a “foreign” bacterium. This is a splendid example of self vs. non-self awareness in lower organisms.
How did secure fertilization affect childbirth?
Over 8 million babies worldwide were born with ART, as predicted in an article published in 2018. ART stands for Assisted Reproductive Technology. It allows same-sex couples and incapable people to have babies. In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most effective. It prevents the chances of diseases and increases safety. A 2012 report shows that 1-2% of ART babies are born every year.
ARTs, especially IVF, are controversial. Yet, these are the things we expect genomics to do; fixing real-life genetic issues. ART has still a long way to go. Multi-parent babies are possible through IVF and ART that can easily facilitate and secure childbirth.
CRISPR, the most promising cancer cure ever:
CRISPR is as crunchy as it sounds. Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR-Cas9) borrows bacterial defense memory against viral attack.
The oldest war is the war between viruses and bacteria. Bacteriophage viruses invade bacteria with ease. So nature gave them something to fight back. A protein complex called Cas9 is key. This sub-microscopic hunk fights viruses. It recognizes viral DNA, scans the cell, eliminating a 100% match. CRISPR technology borrows this bacterial strategy. With CRISPR, protein agents can replace triplet sequences, down to a single nitrogen base. This is promising in the fight against cancer. CRISPR also makes us hopeful for immunity, greater genetic customization, and to live longer and healthier.
Each life makes its own imitation of humanity
Whatever would be the consequences of genomics technology, ignoring its achievements is unwise. But we must proceed with caution. Any wrong decision can cripple our future generations. We should establish an institution to standardize genomics and enforce moral laws. We need to keep genomics under our control. We remember that we are the ones to lead the technology, we can’t let technology lead us. For in the wrong hands, genetic engineering is lethality in the world. By making new genomics research available to laypeople, genetic engineers can solve this problem. Finally, we’ll have a reliable verdict on moral issues on genomics.