Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hot Monkey Tech Proves To Be "Post-Fictional"

Is it possible, as presented in the novel, through bioengineering to add a unique monkey gene to a human organism, including from another species? It wasn’t long ago that the idea of editing an organism’s genes – of removing or adding genes such that the chromosomes replicate the change and pass it on to the next generation – was purely the stuff of science fiction. A lot has changed.

The hottest new gizmo frp, the bioetech toolkit in the last few years is called CRISPR. You can almost guess what it stands for: “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.” In short, it means you should not buy a cheap CRISPR and try this kind of gene editing at home without qualified scientific supervision.  

CRISPR’s best application is for snipping genes out, but it can also be used for adding genes as recently described in a December 2016 paper from researchers at the Salk Institute along with others. Notably the technology also works best on cells regularly dividing and regenerating, such as the skin or in the gut. In this new case the inserted gene was used on non-dividing cells and in a way that came with instructions to repair the eye in a blind person, what was previously thought to be irreversible.

So is the monkey tech imagined in the novel prescient, i.e., “pre-” science? Or would it be more accurate to describe it  as “post-fictional.”

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