Increased Understanding of Our Genome

August 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Probably one of the most exciting breakthroughs in science in the past 20 years was the complete mapping of the human genome. For the first time, we have the complete “human cookbook”. However, our actual understanding of the intricacies of these roughly 3 billion base pairs is somewhat lacking. Yes, we understand the concept of gene expression and duplication, gene transfer using bacterial vectors, and even down to identifying point mutations in a single gene, but there is so much more to learn. With an increased understanding of our genome we could possibly utilize genes known as homeobox genes (Hox genes for short) which play a crucial role during embryonic development. Even the controversial stem cells (undifferentiated somatic cells) would be utilized.

With a complete understanding of the genes that make the 7 billion people on this planet, the possibilities (both good and bad) are endless. In The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer, rich individuals clone themselves. These “younger versions” of themselves are in turn used for their organs. Theoretically, this harvesting of organs from clones could extend one’s life span far beyond what is naturally feasible. In essence, this would create a sort of class war; the rich would utilize this technology to the fullest and extend their life spans while living healthier lives overall. However the poor, without access to this technology, would be forced to live a “natural” and therefore inferior life.

In the realm of science fiction, it is easy to extrapolate this technology. When war comes into play, the genetic engineering of soldiers to create an army of “super-soldiers” of sorts would be a popular theme. One can extend the class war to countries. Richer countries would be able to create amazing armies to beef up their own military while poorer countries would have to resort to the usual armies. The science fiction stories that could possibly stem from this advancement in genomics would be endless.

-Pranav Santapuram


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