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Biotech

Speeding up Evolution 413

Posted by michael
from the kmail-is-already-pretty-fast dept.
DaytonCIM writes ""We can rebuild him. Make him stronger... faster..." Slate.com has a great article on next generation gene research that promises to build "Supermen" or "Superwomen" out of us all. Insulin-like Growth Factor genes to make us stronger without ever visiting a weight room. EPO to generate more red blood cells and enable us to run "forever." Engineered human "Blood" to speed up evolution, so that we become less susceptible to disease and injury."
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Speeding up Evolution

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  • Born too late (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:10AM (#5465824)
    I love reading about this stuff, but I can't help but think it's going to benefit my unborn grandkids a lot more than it will ever help me. I wish cryogenicists would freeze LIVING people so I can come back in a couple centuries. That would be cool.
    • Re:Born too late (Score:5, Informative)

      by josh crawley (537561) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:18AM (#5465855)
      ---I wish cryogenicists would freeze LIVING people

      They'd die anyways. You know what happens to water when you freeze it? It expands. Now picture all of your water in your body being frozen. When unfroze, you'd be a mass of humany bony glop from all your cells rupturing.

      Now this MIGHT work if there was a sure fire way to replace water with a substance that was the similar size, similar weight, and didnt expand when frozen......
      • Re:Born too late (Score:5, Informative)

        by EricTheMad (603880) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:16AM (#5466015)
        You know what happens to water when you freeze it? It expands.

        Water freezes differently depending on how it's frozen. If you freeze it slowly it forms a crystalline structure that takes up a significantly larger space than before. That expansion is what ruptures the cells. However, if the water is flash frozen it doesn't form into crystals and takes up approximately the same amount of space as when unfrozen. That means that the cells remain undamaged. Flash freezing is the technique that is used in human cryogenics.
        • Re:Born too late (Score:3, Informative)

          by j-pimp (177072)
          Flash freezing works great for mice and suck, but I don't know of anyone that has successfully done it to large animals. The larger an animal is the longer it is going to retain its heat when immersed in something really cold. Now last time I looked into it, most scientists believed current people freezing methods are not good enough to prevent water from forming crystals. However, If you drop a gerbil in some liquid nitrogen and let it thaw out at room temperature chances are it will unfreeze and walk around.
      • by whitemandancing (535851) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @05:25AM (#5466168)
        Since ice is crystalline, and crystals are inherently sharp, ice can easily damage any soft tissue.
        There is research being done now that involves this [exploratorium.edu] neat little frog. The North American Wood Frog survives winter by freezing. It freezes during the cold, and actually thaws when the weather heats up. It can do this because of the excess of sugar stores in it's body.

        Personally, I think that this is totally the way to go, so long as we can figure out a way to counteract the massive amounts of sugar we'd need to retain. It's all rather neat, imho. =)
      • Re:Born too late (Score:3, Informative)

        by danila (69889)

        "Cells do not burst as a result of freezing in almost all circumstances, because not only are animal cell walls generally elastic enough to accomodate a 10% expansion, but most of the ice is formed outside the cells." (The Immortalist, Nov-Dec 2002. Vol. 34, p. 5.)

        In addition, various techniques exist, such as perfusion with glycerol, that further reduce the freezing damage.

        "In [another method] vitrification more than 60% of the water inside cells is replaced by a mixture of cryoprotectant (antifreeze) compounds so that tissue does not freeze (or freezes negligibly) during cooling. Instead, below a temperature of -130 degrees Celsius, the tissue becomes a rigid glass with no ice crystal damage." (http://www.alcor.org/FAQs/index.htm, Alcor website, Frequently Asked Questions)

    • by queenb**ch (446380) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:59AM (#5466104) Homepage Journal

      Let me start out by saying, I've lost a contact lens, so I apoligize for the spelling in advance. I'm having a hard time seeing. That said......

      The Cold War wasn't the only arms race going on. There's one that exits every day inside each one of it us. It's a race between various pathogens and our immune system. Oddly enough, DNA plays a HUGE role in the functioning of the immune system as a whole.

      Did you realize that the reason that African-Americans have sickle cell anemia is that it is an evolved immune response? In order to develop the disease, you must inherit 2 recessive "defective" genes. But if you have only 1 "defective" gene and one "normal" gene, you are immune to malaria. Malaria is a mosquito borne disease that kills more than a million people a year in Africa. My point with is that genes that seem to be "bad" to us, might only seem "bad" because we don't have the whole story.

      We've spent either thousands or millions of years, depending on your point of view, on this planet with our pathogens. They change us and we change them. We know that this happens because we can sit in a labratory and observe it. Antibiotic resistant strains are a prime example of this. I happen to call it evolution. Just as wolves thin the deer herds, making them faster, smarter, and stronger, so must the wolves become faster, smarter and stonger to continue to catch the deer. When you consider the amount of time that we humans have spent living with our various bacteria, parasites, etc. , it's logical to me that is happing with us on a microscopic scale.

      Genes are very complicated things because they encode all sorts of information about how you function an unbelievably basic level. There are genes that encode the proteins that make up the cell wall. There are genes that encode the proteins that make up the receptor sites in cell wall. And guess what, mine don't look or work like yours! So I'm near sighted. My whole family is near sighted. My whole family also lives to be a 100 and it's a nice healthly 100, too. I suspect that there is some correlation since the ones that aren't near sighted died in their late 80's and early 90's.

      The tinkering with plants hasn't gone as well as most of the public has been lead to believe. They figured out how to make cotton that didn't need to be dyed. It grew as red or blue. Well, they released it. People planted it and now they are being sued. Their neighbors are getting all kinds of odd color combinations in what was supposed to be their white cotton. There's also a "pest resistant" corn. Now that the corn flea beetle and corn worm can't eat corn, what will they be going to go after next? Or, worse yet, will they evolve in to a superpest that can eat the "pest resistant" plants? If they can eat the "pest resistant" corn, will they be able to eat the other "pest resistant " crops we're getting ready to release. We've created other "superpests" and a whole host of other problems with our use of chemicals because we really didn't understand the ramifications of what we were tinkering with - DDT, DES, MRSA, STSS, and a whole alphabet soup of acronyms. These are just the ones I can name off the top of my head.

      This is a really really good example of "Just because you CAN, doesn't mean you SHOULD". They don't understand what the side effects to the environment are with a simple thing like colored cotton. They sure aren't going to understand the full ramifications of making changes to humans any time in this century. Anybody that thinks that is a good idea, should probably get some IQ points spliced in to the DNS sequence.

      Queen B
  • Khaaaaaan! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:11AM (#5465826) Homepage
    Of course, according to Star Trek, the Eugenics wars took place during the 1990s, so these supermen must already be among us. I'm sure that when the footage is de-classified, we'll all enjoy a bunch of fascinating documentaries on how these scientists already did their stuff back in the 70s....
  • by telstar (236404) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:11AM (#5465827)
    Last time I checked Superman was in a wheelchair, and Supergirl had been cancelled by the WB.
    • I'd rather be in a wheelchair than be cancelled by the WB.
    • Normally I'm not a fan of modding down, but how did this get modded as funny?

      Now... having a show that's so bad that the WB would cancel it is funny, but I don't personally find the fact that christopher reeve is in a wheelchair to be at all humourous.

      • Re:Mod down please (Score:4, Insightful)

        by default luser (529332) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @02:08PM (#5467687) Journal
        It's funny because it pokes fun at the human mentality: we are masters of this planet.

        Funny thing is, we are not even masters of our own domain. We introduce species into an environment as pest control, and they become new, toughter pests. We pop pills with the latest and greatest chemicals only to discover they cause deaths in people with a previously unknown genetic trait. We split the atom, and proceed to use it to threaten our own existence. We eradicate diseases ( Smallpox, the most virulent strains of Influenza, etc ), but this simply means that is any one of them were ro resurge, it would have the same deadly effect as the Black Plague due to no resistance in the population.

        We liken ourselves to supermen every day by pushing the boundaries without knowing or thoroughly considering all the consequences. The fact that "Superman" is in a wheelchair only serves to remind us how foolish we are as a race.

        No matter how advanced we become, we are only human. Mortal. Fallible.
        • Re:Mod down please (Score:4, Insightful)

          by SecretAsianMan (45389) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @10:10PM (#5469656) Homepage
          While I hate species hubris more, I still greatly despise species anti-hubris as exemplified by your post. You are correct in the observation that many biotechnological developments have adverse side-effects, but you are dead wrong in implying that the adversity is sufficiently severe to negate the benefits obtained through the sacrifice. I'll attack your statements point by point:
          We introduce species into an environment as pest control, and they become new, toughter pests.
          And then we create better pest control. This is a cyclical process. There's nothing wrong with that. Computer security is similar. When the white hats plug a hole, the black hats will find another (new, tougher) one. Yet the necessity of hole-plugging is virtually undebated.
          We pop pills with the latest and greatest chemicals only to discover they cause deaths in people with a previously unknown genetic trait.
          Would you rather us not have pills, or more exactly, the drugs contained in the pills? I personally find it discomforting to think of life without Tylenol, Ex-Lax, Benadryl, or antibiotics. The truth is that the number of deaths due to bad pills is negligible in comparison to the number of deaths that are prevented with good pills.
          We split the atom, and proceed to use it to threaten our own existence.
          We have also proceeded to use the atom to (relatively) cleanly generate electricity and to greatly advance physics. The Manhattan Project created the phenomenon of "big science", which now enables billions of dollars to be funneled into scientific endeavors. Soon, our spacecraft may propel themselves with atomic engines.
          We eradicate diseases ( Smallpox, the most virulent strains of Influenza, etc ), but this simply means that is any one of them were ro resurge, it would have the same deadly effect as the Black Plague due to no resistance in the population.
          Are you seriously suggesting that diseases such as smallpox should not have been eradicated? If so, you should become more acquainted with history, specifically the history of disease. Perhaps we should invent a time machine and send you back to 18th century urban Europe. Duh: disease used to be a major problem. If resistance has decreased, it is most certainly a fair price to pay for significantly improved quality of life and life expectancy.
          The fact that "Superman" is in a wheelchair only serves to remind us how foolish we are as a race.
          ICYHN, Superman was a fictional character.

          While I don't believe that we'll ever perfectly know how to know things and thus not occasially shoot ourselves in the foot, I do believe that our epistomological self-consciousness is increasing.

  • by binary_life (656759) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:11AM (#5465830)
    In the year 2000, genetic enhancements will make everyone look super beautiful, the downside being everyone will look exactly like one another. Ahhh... Don't you love conan obrien?
    • by m00nun1t (588082) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @05:36AM (#5466190) Homepage
      But your post raises an interesting question: is beauty an absolute or relative concept? If through some genetic manipulation everyone becomes "beautiful" (by current standards), does that then fail to be beautiful? Is beautiful beautiful because of the (pleasant) way it differs from the "norm"? Or will we be in heaven living in a world of super models?

      Food for thought...
      • Food for love... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Steeltoe (98226)
        I'd say this:

        A love that is dependent on beauty, is superficial and leads only to misery.

        So why be obsessed about superficial attributes such as beauty, strength and intelligence, when love is what we seek?

        When you have much love, beauty comes naturally. You even cannot have beauty, without love.
      • by HiThere (15173)
        There have been some studies. Increasing symmetry increases both beauty and blandness. At some level (varies) people start preferring more interesting features over more beautiful ones. There are also correlations with what your parents looked like, and what your cousins looked like, etc. Generally people like to marry people who look similar enough to their parents to be their second cousins. But this isn't necessarily what they will consider most beautiful.

        This stuff was reported in Science News a couple or three years ago. I don't remember the author or title though.
      • This is such a boring objection...

        Do you honestly think that if we could have complete control over our appearance we would choose to simply look like some supermodel? Well, I'm sure some people would, those with the creativity of a ant. The rest of us would become something cool.

        I know exactly what I would want:

        I'd wand really black skin, two small horns, and (most important) a thick layer of soft, white sheep wool (everywhere but on my face, hands, etc.). That way, I wouldn't have to think about what I want to wear when I go out. In the summers I'd have myself shorn so that I wouldn't get too hot, and I'd always be experimenting with dying my wool in various artistic ways. I suspect the chicks would love it (especially if my competition were a bunch of nobodys that look like Ken dolls). But even if the chicks wouldn't love it, I would.

        Philosophical afterword: Isn't it interesting how we usually think we should not praise or blame people for the things that are outside their control, but we have just the opposite attitude about their appearance. If somebody actually takes charge and dramatically alters their "natural" appearance, we critisize it for being "fake" and so somehow second-best. But we praise people who just look good naturally, even though we know they did absolutely nothing to earn our praise. Maybe these attitudes will change once controlling our appearance genetically becomes more common.

  • jocks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    " Steroids raise cancer risk, promote impotence, and cause mood changes."

    Yeah but the muscles pull the chicks!
  • by gpinzone (531794) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:12AM (#5465834) Homepage Journal
    ...and when we change all our DNA to be coded a certain way, we'll find some strange illness that affects what would have been 0.02% of the opulation now threatens to wipe out mankind.
    • by telstar (236404) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:15AM (#5465843)
      "...and when we change all our DNA to be coded a certain way, we'll find some strange illness that affects what would have been 0.02% of the opulation now threatens to wipe out"
      • We've already got large sectors of the population randomly leaving the letter "P" out of words...
    • by dollargonzo (519030) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:23AM (#5465869) Homepage
      susceptablity has little to do with *how* DNA is coded. any given gene or allele can provide resistance to a given disease, and as long as there are differences, some people will be susceptible differenly than others. really the only way to eliminate diversity to the point where diseases might affect the entire population is to have *very* few people in the population. unless you specifically change a gene that provides resistant to a certain disease, nothing will change. a lack of diversity is bad, yes...but it would need to be pretty extreme to have a significant effect.

    • Not to mention the cost of genetic manipulation. Restriction enzymes are expensive (like more expensive than gold or weapons grade plutionium gramme for gramme). One might envisage a speciation event, where the super rich who can afford these things become Homo sapiens ssp. arrogantetloadeditius whilst the rest of us mere mortals stay Homo sapiens. More likely the rich go extinct, except for the progeny they sire from extra-test tube liasons which hide in the normal human gene pool. However, here it seems likely that the rich people's Y chromosome would be passed on into the normal population at an equal frequency to the X chromosome rather than at half the frequency as normal Population genetics off the top of your head is fun!
      --
      http://www.superbad.com [superbad.com]
      • by nounderscores (246517) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @10:04AM (#5466707)
        Sure restriction enzymes are costly, but at least they're legal enough to give to 2nd year biochem students like me. Also you can buy a gene printer (known as an oglio synthesiser) from Bioron [bioron.net] or ABI [used-line.com] for about $12,000.00 used. That can print up arbitary DNA sequences for you without much fuss, and then you can DNA ligase them together into whatever you want. [sfsu.edu]

        All this is legal, and getting cheaper (Moore's law... blah... Blah...).

        Whether the rich or the poor or both get the benefits and/or curses of the technology depends on the laws and the cultural aspects, not the science.

        Unlike plutonium which is a relatively rare and dangerous element, the the chemicals that this technology uses exist in every cell of your body. You didn't think that your cells went and sliced and diced DNA without the benefit of restriction enzymes did you?

        Furthermore, are your gender politics assuming that all the rich people who go for this technology are male? I find your logic there rickety at best.
  • by euxneks (516538) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:13AM (#5465837)
    He can code large masses of programs with a single keystroke, Absorb boxes of pizza with nary a thought, never shaves for days on end! It's... Internet boy!.. Genetically modified so that... oh.. wait.. we already have people like that...
    • Actually you hit the nail on the had there IMO. Genetics potentially extends private choice to heredity. All the lefty types are terrified of it lest everyone churn out Barbie and Ken replicas. But as per usual they ignore the importance of the individual's choice. Even with totally unregulated private-individual genetic tinkering, the individual differences as to what constitutes "super" would become the source of diversity.
      • by nounderscores (246517) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @10:15AM (#5466734)
        The lefty types, being the minority, are scared not in spite of choice, but because of it.

        How many parents in America want a brunette child with a stocky figure in a girl? I'm not sure if you're a parent yourself. If you are I'm pretty hopeful that you would tell me that you wouldn't trade your baby for anything. But suppose you were not a parent yet, but about to become one. the doctor shows you a gattaca style menu of possible babies and one of them is the cookycutter bobbie model from snowcrash. And you think to yourself "Nobody will ever call her fat. Or demean her for her appearance. She will fit in in every way. And there's no way in hell I'm going to chose the one with glasses."

        And thus, in nine months time, you look down your street at the identical babies in identical prams being pushed out of identical houses into identical ford broncos and realise that the Madison Avenue types who booked 30 seconds during the superbowl outsmarted all of you... except the family down the street who are new here and could only afford a No-Diseases package.

        Now imagine if that was true, imagine what it would be like if you were the only UNmodified girl in your class. Would the teasing over being different get easier, or worse? Imagine if your parents had modified you for brains rather than looks and the side effects involved a hairy neck and small horn-like protrusions on your forehead.

        Never underestimate the herd mentality. You'll find as many barbies walking the streets as there are people drinking coke today. The pepsi generation will be populated entirley by ken.

        God help those whoes parents decided to choose something unpopular or obscure, because your birth-body is one thing you can't throw away when it becomes unfashionable.
  • hmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daitengu (172781) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:16AM (#5465847) Homepage Journal
    oh great, everyone lives longer (or forever), the planet becomes over-crowded, and we haven't invented interstellar travel.

    Can anyone else see where this is going?
  • by $$$$$exyGal (638164) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:19AM (#5465858) Homepage Journal
    The article talks about:

    Bodybuilding for Couch Potatoes...

    Now geeks everywhere will all be able to carry a 24 inch CRT under each arm from one side of the building to the other ;-). Seriously, though, this could be a bad thing. If you just wake up one day, and you are super-strong, you are gonna screw stuff up. Maybe you'll break someone's hand (ala a Star Trek The Next Generation episode when some guy takes over Data's body), or you are just going to generally screw up your super-muscles. You'll probably still never exercise, and end up pulling your super-strong muscles (which will probably hurt more, because there is more mass).

  • by 1nv4d3r (642775) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:21AM (#5465861)
    I never thought I'd see the day when only two of these were spam, and the others were actual opportunities of a lifetime.

    "Make your penis 3 inches longer."
    "Grow Muscle Mass without exercise."
    "Horny cheerleaders wet 4 u"
    "Run virtually forever without breaking a sweat."

    Good luck to the SPAM Assassin folks if I can't tell the difference.
  • Nazis... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Joseph Wharton (204162) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:22AM (#5465864) Journal
    Isn't this the sort of thing that the Nazis were working on back during World War II?
    • Re:Nazis... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:32AM (#5465900) Homepage Journal
      No. Genetic engineering != eugenics. They're two completely different ideas.
      • by Selanit (192811) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @07:59AM (#5466471)

        Genetic engineering != eugenics. They're two completely different ideas.


        That may need a little elaboration, as the two touch on related areas.

        Eugenics is a theory which holds that certain individuals are innately superior to others, and that the superior few are vastly outnumbered by the inferior many. If you accept these two premises, then it follows that the inferior many are sure to reproduce faster than the superior few, with the result that the characteristics of the superior individuals will be lost. Basically, a eugenicist sees the world in terms of a conflict between those with big brains and those with big dicks. In order to improve the species, therefore, a eugenicist will attempt to discourage the inferior from procreating, and encourage the superior.

        The biggest problem with this theory is figuring out how to tell who's superior and who's inferior. The answer depends on how you ask the question, and on what your beliefs are about what would constitute a "superior" human being. The Nazis believed that a certain physical type was superior -- blond hair, blue eyes, extremely fair skin, what they called "Aryan". They conducted experiments attempting to further these characteristics; for example they would take a pair of brown-eyed twins, and inject chemicals into their eyes in an attempt to change the eye-color to blue. This particular study was carried out at Auschwitz by Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death [crimelibrary.com].

        If, on the other hand, you are an American eugenicist, what you do to separate the inferior and the superior is come up with the Intellectual Quotient Test and administer it to all schoolchildren. Those who do well are deemed fit, and allowed to do things like take college prep courses in high school. Those who are deemed unfit are only allowed to take classes in, say, technical arts, thereby preparing them for a lifetime working as drones in a factory. Also, you get laws passed in many states requiring the forced sterilization [go.com] of any person below a certain IQ level who attempts to reproduce. You might also conduct studies such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments [npr.org] which were begun with the understanding that the subjects would be black because black men are naturally more lascivious than white men, and therefore more likely to have syphilis. These experiments were funded by Congress, continued for four decades, involved hideously painful procedures like spinal fluid taps, and worst of all the subjects were never told that they had syphilis. By the time they found out, it was far too late for any of them to seek treatment.

        Eugenics is no longer an accepted theory. It depends on an arbitrary vision of what constitutes "superiority", and led to some truly barbaric practices, both in Germany and in the United States. I do not know how well the theory was received in other countries. I am, however, truly grateful that it is no longer accepted.

        Genetic engineering, on the other hand, is a technique for the modification of living creatures by altering their genetic structure. It could very easily be used for eugenics, but has other more benign purposes as well.

        There are two kinds of genetic engineering. One involves the modification of an existing organism. For example, take a child afflicted with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease which causes the lungs to fill with mucus, thereby making it extremely difficult to breathe. That child might be treated by inhaling a vapor of specially created viruses that insert themselves into the affected lung cells and alter their genetic code in such a way that they stop producing the mucus. This is also known as gene therapy [uiowa.edu].

        The other form of genetic engineering involves modifying an organism before it starts growing. Thus you might take a fertilized egg and modify its DNA prior to its implantation in the wall of the mother's womb. Since all cells in the body ultimately derive from that egg, your modification would change the fundamental nature of the adult organism. Genetic modifications have been carried out on plants, for example to make them resistant to a particular disease, or to increase the per-acre yield of a food crop. You yourself have probably eaten such genetically modified food. It is quite common in America; less so in Europe, where there are a great many people who protest against it.

        Genetic engineering is a field which has enormous potential for good -- the elimination of genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis. If two people are aware that their child might suffer from CF, they could perform an artificial insemination of an egg which had been "fixed", or avoid the disease simply by choosing an egg that wasn't affected in the first place. On the other hand, genetic engineering also has a staggering potential for abuse. A genetic engineer could not only cure diseases, but also create entirely new ones. The new disease might be used in biological warfare. It is conceivable (though currently not possible) that genetic engineering might be able to create a contagious mutagen -- a virus that would spread throughout the population, and make a particular modification within the bodies of the victims. Imagine if the Nazis had been able to create a virus that would alter the eggs and testicles of those who contracted it. They could have ensured that the next generation would be blond and blue-eyed, against the will of the parents.

        Then, of course, there is the danger that we might screw up. We know a lot about genetics now, but there's even more that's not well understood. Sequencing out a full human gene doesn't mean that we understand how all the parts interact with another. There are large portions of the genome that don't seem to do anything (introns) . . . but then again maybe they do, and we just haven't figured it out quite yet. Then there's the fact that one sequence of DNA might control or contribute to three or four different finished structures. If you alter it to give a child green eyes, you might also cause the child to be bald. (That's just an example, I have no idea if the sequences controlling hair production and eye color are at all related.)

        Basically, we don't know enough at this point to engage in wholesale manipulation of human genetics. We should not outlaw it -- the genie is out of the bottle, and if we tried outlawing it, the research would merely be undertaken by unethical scientists with little or no oversight. On the other hand, we should NOT perform modifications of human beings without a clear idea of what we're doing and a damn good reason to do it. Giving your kid a particular eye color is NOT a good reason for genetic engineering. Avoiding cystic fibrosis is acceptable. Engineering for more abstract qualities -- musical talent, mathematical skill, linquistic ability -- should be avoided at all costs until we have some idea what the hell we're doing. We don't even know if those qualities are controlled by genes; in the process of trying it out we might very well screw up and make some truly horrible mistakes. Note that many autistic people are also extremely good at math.

        Then there are the social issues. Genetic engineering is expensive. If we're not careful, it could become a way for the wealthy to reinforce their dominance over world affairs. It is natural to want to give your child every advantage in life that you can; but doing so can simultaneously disadvantage other people's children.

        In short, genetic engineering of humans is problematic. It could provide some unparalleled benefits to the human species . . . but it is also an ethical minefield, and could easily be turned to selfish or downright evil purposes.
        • Then there are the social issues. Genetic engineering is expensive. If we're not careful, it could become a way for the wealthy to reinforce their dominance over world affairs. It is natural to want to give your child every advantage in life that you can; but doing so can simultaneously disadvantage other people's children.

          Or, as with every other new technology, the wealthy will pay for the privilege of being guinea pigs (aka "early adopters") which the rest of the population will benefit from later. Wealthy patrons (and/or governments) could be benevolent and sponsor poor and needy patients in need of genetic engineering (your cystic fibrosis example, for instance), if they don't mind risking being accused of using the poor as lab rats in their scheme for global hegemony or some other paranoid fantasy du jour.

          I don't mean for that to be a flame, I'm just trying to point out that intentions can be spun in all sorts of ways depending on a person's point of view. Given the heavy populist prejudice against "the rich" this issue is likely going to get very messy, as you described.
        • by Sentry21 (8183) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @12:11PM (#5467138) Journal
          It depends on an arbitrary vision of what constitutes "superiority", and led to some truly barbaric practices, both in Germany and in the United States. I do not know how well the theory was received in other countries. I am, however, truly grateful that it is no longer accepted.

          Eugenics was adopted in most major Western nations. The United States more or less led the way, Britain, Canada, several other countries soon followed. What's interesting to note here is that Germany actually came into the game extremely late compared to the rest of the Western world, and that the Eugenics laws in Germany were formed and passed before the instatement of the Nazi party. The Nazis just happened to take it up with a vengance.

          A little history for the crowd: Eugenics rose from the ideas of Social Darwinism, which of course rose from Darwin's ideas of evolution, though Darwin was rather appalled by Social Darwinism and never supported it at all. Social Darwinism took the ideas of evolution and applied them to society. The idea was that society, like nature, would become increasingly better over time, by nature of evolution. Those who fit in well with society and contributed would help advance society, and those who were a drag on society would fall by the wayside, and the ideas taken on by society would evolve and become better, closer and closer to perfect. This caused great hope amongst the people - don't worry, there's nothing bad around the corner, because society will continue to get better indefinitely. Talk about cheery ideas.

          Then someone had the bright idea of meddling. We cull our herds, we cull our crops. We breed the best with the best to make even better, don't we? Why shouldn't we do that to humanity? We'll take the best and brightest and encourage them to reproduce, often, and we'll... well, we'll cull the sick and useless from the herds so they don't taint the stock. And so they did. Eugenics laws involving sterilization of the sick, the feeble-minded, the low of society, were passed, and how. Leilani Muir [google.ca] is a perfect example. An Albertan girl, 'feeble minded', she was sterilized. Today, her IQ is measured at around the 90's, I believe, and she's perfectly capable of functioning in society. They didn't care. It was for the glory of society.

          Eugenics laws were gleefully adopted by everyone... Then World War II came. The Nazis came, and they took Eugenics to the logical extreme, and the world watched in horror at what lay at the end of the path they all had decided to travel down. Laws were thrown out, lawsuits were filed, and everything went to shit. People realized that ideal society was something we'd have to work towards, that there was no free ride. Supposedly. Some governments, including some in Canada, took as late as the 1970s to repeal their Eugenics laws, even though they weren't being used. Sad, but at least it happened.

          So, for anyone who thinks that racial superiority and the like was born with the Nazis, think again. Canadians, Americans, Britons, we're guilty, because we started it. The Nazis took it to the extreme all at once, but I fear that if they hadn't been so quick about it, that might've been the way the rest of our societies went.

          Frightening.

          --Dan
    • Re:Nazis... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Nazis also were working on building rockets back during World War II. Does that mean no one should build rockets?

      And anyways, what they were doing was not genetic engineering. Hell, DNA wasn't discovered until 1953.

    • Re:Nazis... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Noehre (16438) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:35AM (#5466054)
      Actually, Eugenics programs started in the United Stated and culminated with the forced sterilization laws found in many areas.

      The Nazis got the idea from Americans.
      • Re:Nazis... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Brian Stretch (5304)
        Actually, Eugenics programs started in the United Stated and culminated with the forced sterilization laws found in many areas. The Nazis got the idea from Americans.

        Sadly, that is partially true. See The Pivot of Civilization [pro-life.net] by Margaret Sanger, with introduction by none other than H.G. Wells. From the appendix:

        "STERILIZATION of the insane and feebleminded and the encouragement of this operation upon those afflicted with inherited or transmissible diseases, with the understanding that sterilization does not deprive the individual of his or her sex expression, but merely renders him incapable of producing children.

        EDUCATIONAL: The program of education includes: The enlightenment of the public at large, mainly through the education of leaders of thought and opinion--teachers, ministers, editors and writers--to the moral and scientific soundness of the principles of Birth Control and the imperative necessity of its adoption as the basis of national and racial progress.

        POLITICAL AND LEGISLATIVE: To enlist the support and cooperation of legal advisers, statesmen and legislators in effecting the removal of state and federal statutes which encourage dysgenic breeding, increase the sum total of disease, misery and poverty and prevent the establishment of a policy of national health and strength."

        I've only read Wells' intro and the appendix, fwiw. In all fairness to Sanger, Hitler added more than a few ideas of his own, but the National Socialists did use her writings as a starting point.
  • by RovingSlug (26517) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:25AM (#5465875)
    Speeding up evolution means lots of mutations and lots of death of everything not better. Mucking around with the genome is not evolution, it's just mucking around with the genome. Blah...
    • and it's also important to remember, you end up with two distinct classes of hyper-evolved beings: the good guys, led by Professor X, and the evil mutants, led by Magneto.
    • Yes. They don't really mean "speeding up evolution", but rather "genetic engineering". We're still headed that way quite quickly.

      N.B.: This doesn't mean that evolution stops. It just changes the ground rules a bit. But evolution is a slow process, and before it can have much effect this will be POTENT STUFF. But evolution applies to everything from sub-atomic particles to galaxy-clusters, and everything in between. The details of how it operates change a bit as you change your perspective from area to area, but the general concept always applies. It's closely tied into entropy, and it's nearly as basic (is does require that there be differences between things, and that somethings can transform into other things [e.g., a neutron a proton + an electron a hydrogen atom -- but I left out that neutrino!, so the example is over simplified].). As a catch-phrase you could say "The survival of the most stable."

  • by Slapdash X. Hashbang (315401) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:25AM (#5465876) Homepage
    ...Linus Torvalds said,
    "And don't EVER make the mistake that you can design something better than
    what you get from ruthless massively parallel trial-and-error with a
    feedback cycle. That's giving your intelligence _much_ too much credit."
  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by ConMotto (586959) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:25AM (#5465878)
    Great, now all the old folks will leech my social security momey fovever. As if social security wasn't screwed already.
  • by eidechse (472174) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:27AM (#5465885)
    If those damn aliens had a decent QA team I wouldn't need any enhancements.
  • Spider-Man? (Score:3, Funny)

    by ufoman (544261) <ufomanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:30AM (#5465893) Homepage
    Can they make a radioactive spider bite me so I can walk on walls?
    • by ramzak2k (596734)
      I would rather be bitten by a butterfly so that i could fly, be multicolored, walk around with wings & MSN tag on it.. eeek.. never mind, pass the spider after you are done.

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:34AM (#5465906) Homepage
    Soon, I'll be so far ahead of the rest of humanity I'll be able to read /. stories an average of 10 to 20 minutes before the rest of you surrender-monkeys.
  • by 1nv4d3r (642775) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:37AM (#5465914)
    I tried it and went back to mutt. I do agree that evolution should be sped up, though. It was a little on the slow side, as I recall.

  • killev.

    Best script ever. Bring on the IMAP rewrite.
  • Do the Evolution! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by everlasting_beernut (654131) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:53AM (#5465959)
    Anybody ever stop and think "Hey, evolution takes place over a very long period of time...perhaps we shouldn't fuck with it?" Nope. Everyone seems to think that all we need to do is make everyone the ideal. Well, if you do that: A: It is no longer any sort of ideal, an ideal is supposed to provide a goal, a motivation to be a better person, or to train harder, etc. B: Whose ideal are we working toward? Hitler's? An aryan nation of blonde haired, blue eyed automatons whose only goal in life is to serve to the best of his/her abilities (which will be greatly amplified by the techniques spoken of above, and more)? C: Whose to say that it will be him/her? Maybe it will be an asexual being, since the genes can just be created. If we can make the genes in a lab, why should anyone be grown (yes, grown-not born, grown) with genitals or a sex drive? --- Think about it, if variety is the spice of life, and we continue on the path we have chosen, the future will be quite bland...
    • actually, I think it'll lead to more variety... I can just see the kid begging their parents:
      "Jack's mom let him grow horns! Why won't you just let me get tusks?"
    • I totally agree with your comment; however, it seems oddly ironic when coupled with your .sig.

      or maybe it's just me.
    • by Xenna (37238)
      It's not very likely that people will start designing new humans just like that.

      It's much more likely that this type of evolution will creep in slowly. People's embryos are already scanned for certain hereditary diseases when they are in a high risk group.

      How far off is it before embryos will be routinely evaluated for heart & cancer risk later in life. Only the best embryo will be chosen to grow up.

      This seems a logical step. It also seems logical that if you have several good quality boy embryos, you will choose the one that doesn't have the genes for early baldness.

      There we go, man made evolution in progress.

      I whish I could be around long enough to see where it all will end...
  • by John Whorfin (19968) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:58AM (#5465969) Homepage
    My neighbor's kid has some syndrome where because of some genetic hiccup the kid has no upper body strength. No, I not saying the kid's a wimp, I'm saying he can't swallow or breathe on his own.

    Apparently, the current thinking is that through gene therapy there's at least a possibilty the kid could be cured, ('cept there's a moratorium on gene therapy).

    So, being super people is I guess all well and good, for me I'd just like to see this kid not have to eat through a tube.
  • by afidel (530433) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @03:59AM (#5465975)
    Many systems in the human body are simply not designed for extremely long lives. The heart beats only so many times before wearing out (as an aside almost all animals have the same number of lifetime heart beats regardless of size, environment etc except humans have about 3X as many), the genetic repair mechanisms are only so good at fighting off mutations such as cancer, and the one that needs to be solved for there to even be a chance for extremely long lives in tolemer capping (when cells devide the genes are seperated by DNA polymerase which unravels them in sections and continues until it reaches the tolemere caps, but each time they are slightly damaged, if the tolomers are not reinforced this eventually leads to the genes unravelling and the cell either self destructing or becoming cancerous, in mouse trials a simple physical cap extended the average lifespan by almost 3X)
    • DNA in a living system is set up to automatically repair itself. Your body does this with a set of enzymes that finds damaged DNA, and rebuilds the damaged section, building off the other strand as a template (remember the double helix).

      However, there are people who either lack this enzyme, or have a genetic defect that makes this system nonfunctional... those people grow cancers like it's their job. The same thing happens to people on long-term immunosuppresive drugs (transplant patients, most notably).

      Your body also has something called apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Some cells die at a certain point in human development, because they are programmed to do so... Who knows what extending their telomeres will do to normal human embryology?

      Your body is hard-wired to take care of itself, and it does so pretty effectively. I can't help but wonder what kind of badness we'll create when we start monkeying with the human genome in earnest.
    • The heart beats only so many times before wearing out (as an aside almost all animals have the same number of lifetime heart beats regardless of size, environment etc except humans have about 3X as many

      So, theoreticaly, I could greatly enhance my lifespan simply by sleeping more, avoiding stress, and never exercising?
    • by The Pim (140414) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @08:23AM (#5466500)
      The heart beats only so many times before wearing out (as an aside almost all animals have the same number of lifetime heart beats regardless of size, environment etc except humans have about 3X as many)

      This is readily debunked. Start with bats and most birds.

  • Genes are only part of the whole picture when it comes to muscle-mass. Genetically identical twins can have totally different physiques due to lifestyle, including diet and exercise (which, including genes, make the largest difference in physique).

    Muscle mass automagically atrophies when not in use, so I don't see how someone can "grow" muscle like they would grow hair.

    Obviously, there are serious moral and biological questions that have yet to be answered about all this. And unfortunately, these types of people usually have too optimistic view of the near-future. I mean, where are the flying-cars and annual visits to the moon?

  • Is this playing god? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rooked_One (591287) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:08AM (#5465998) Journal
    I dont have feelings either way, but I can't help but wonder if this is a good or bad thing. I mean, we are basically taking shortcuts, and in the evoloutionary way of things, shortcuts usually have an adverse affect. Is our gene pool strong enough to coincide genetically altered DNA?

    I'm all for creating new organs out of stems cells, if its needed for life. I know many good people would have lived longer if all they needed was an organ transplant.

    Science is good, but you have to keep it in check with average human prosperity. Its like the "Prime Directive," you have to follow it or theres drastic consequences you can never forsee. You wouldn't give a monkey a gun if you knew he could understand the consequences of using it. Same thing applies here in an obscewred point.

  • by Highwayman (68808) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:17AM (#5466019)
    In the software world we would call this vaporware. However when scientists get futuristic and show minimal results with some mice its visionary for some reason. This story should have been published 10 years from now with some viable results. This article is nothing more than an advertisement wrapped in an article probably set up by the R&D department of whoever is funding this mess. Give me a break. What's next a story about hover cars and teleportation? Enhancement studies have been consistently failing in the military for years. It always seems the same: (1) find out chemical X is depleted by activity Y. (2) Find a synthetic way of making chemical X. (3) Give loads and loads of X to person conducting activity Y. (4) Wonder why it gives them migranes, results in Air Force pilots dropping bombs on civilians, and causes permanent brain damage or cancer. A friend that worked at an aeromedical research lab had stories of permanent neurological damage caused through sleep retarding drugs and other performance enhancers. Such stories are all over the military enhancement research from failed LSD experiments to caffeine as performance enhancers. Vaporware says I.
  • by chathamhouse (302679) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:32AM (#5466049) Homepage
    ... my girlfriend does, she's working on a Ph.D. in skeletal muscle physiology. I cede my keyboard.
    -------

    While IGF-1 does wonderful things in mice, don't look for it at your local store or spam e-mail. Whatever people are selling in the spam shops isn't IGF-1, or anything remotely related to it. The real stuff is approximately $25 000 (US) per gram, which will treat 25 mice for a month, or one human for a day.

    The problem with gene therapy is that it isn't available "now or soon", as stated in the article. The problem is that when the gene is injected, only a very small percentage of the muscle cells will express it. This means that delivery of the gene is very inefficient.

    Adding onto this, there will be an immune response to the gene or the vector delivering the gene. This means that it won't hang around very long.

    Next, there is a massive area to deliver to (all your skeletal muscle). And no efficient mechanism by which to accomplish this.

    Basically, gene therapy is far from being a reality, let alone a mass market one that you could afford. To worry about gene doping at any Olympics in the forseable future is exceedingly premature.

    The reason you can alter genes in mice is that their eggs can be manipulated in vitro . The manipulated eggs are artificially fertilized and injected into a pseudo-pregnant female. And while with this approach, only one cell has to be targetted, it still takes many many many months to create a transgenic mouse that expresses the proper genotype. Once that's done, you have to breed them - that's a lot of ass work for post-docs and PhD students.
  • by liupang (256574) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @04:39AM (#5466063)
    That's the killer application that genetic engineering solely needed. oh yeah.
  • by g4dget (579145) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @05:12AM (#5466139)
    Sorry, but "faster, bigger, better, stronger" is not what evolution aims for. Mice, deer, worms, and rabbits somehow all managed to survive. And the saber tooth tiger, mammoth, and lots of other big, strong, and ferocious species have died out. Even for crocodiles, most of them get eaten before reaching adulthood. Evolution creates more of what survives, and small wimpy creatures that have a lot of sex are at least as successful as ferocious hunters. Furthermore, bigger muscles and other traits that we may think of desirable usually come along with quite a few problems, otherwise we'd already have them.
  • by abhikhurana (325468) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @05:14AM (#5466144)
    The more news I read about genetic research, the more sure I am that the future promised by Gattaca will come true. I don't really mind genetic research but what really scares me is the possibility of a division this might create. I mean there is this rich western world where people will be able to afford the benifits of this kind of research, where children wud be born with longer lives, more intelligent etc. , which in turn would make them even richer and then there is this poor world where ppl can't afford basic healthcare, leave alone genetic research, where thousands die from malaria every year and they would keep getting poorer. I am not very sure if I am for such research.
  • by 7-Vodka (195504) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @05:25AM (#5466167) Journal
    ok Ill bite. Disecting the article:
    Only a few daredevils, for example, would risk surgery to upgrade their vision from normal to extraordinary.
    This is mostly because the surgery (lasic) has a potential to go horribly wrong and doesn't give much better than 20/20.

    Athletes, enticed by fat contracts, Olympic medals, and fan adulation, will accept almost any health risk to steal an advantage.
    yes. Believe it or not a survey of athletes I read, said that 90+% would take *any* drug to improve their performance with or without serious side-effects. The key was *not getting caught*.

    Steroids and nutritional supplements-certified by home-run records and 350-pound offensive linemen-have already found their way to every major high-school sports program in the United States.
    This is true. But the *only* supplement that has been shown in real clinical trials to work is creatine. ALL THE OTHERS ARE BOGUS. And steroids REALLY work. But their side-effects are really fucking bad.

    Anyone who injects steroids can get very strong, but only if he lifts weights regularly
    You don't *necessarily* have to lift weights for steroids to build muscle, but it helps a lot.

    In recent years, doctors have been virtually dragging seniors to the weight room to get them buffed up.
    Yes, this is because the benefit is FUCKING ENOURMOUS. take this to heart old people reading /.

    The IGF gene is a multitasker.
    Bad analogy. What they're trying to get at is that IGF genes turn on many other responses both at the genetic level and other. It turns on other genes and interacts with many pathways. It's a controler gene.

    Both MGF and IGF-1 encourage muscles to grow. Yeah. just watch out for the shitty side effects.. like CANCER.

    Goldspink hopes MGF could be a therapy for the sick and frail
    Yes, here's the deal... Frail people, the elderly, those who are lacking in what these genes provide are the ones who will recieve the biggest benefit with the least side-effects. This is important.

    The technique for inserting the gene into muscles is not complicated
    Yes it bloody well is. don't lie. Right now, it's bloody complicated.

    Although Goldspink's experiment resulted in Schwarzenegger mice, that doesn't mean that MGF will successfully pump up normal humans
    Theres a bloody good chance of it tho. I'd lay money on it.

    And as for IGF-1, it may have health risks that MGF does not
    ok, let's make this clear. Don't take IGF-1. It DOES cause a lot of death-leading problems. heart failure AND cancer are just 2 of them.

    Athletes are already experimenting with IGF-1
    This HAS lead to deaths. It doesn't appear from the research that taking IGF-1 is safe at any level. But human trials are not done because we have laws in the U.S. against killing people for the sake of research.

    On EPO:
    Here is the trade-off. More bloodcells = slightly better performance & slightly increased risk of clogging your arteries. My opinion is nature worked out the proper ratio.
    In fact, if you exercise regularly you will be amazed at how much you are rewarded.
    You can start fucking around with your body. It can produce very large effects. But you're fucking with millions of years of evolution. You better have a good reason. There *might* be situations where it's beneficial. For example, humans evolved to fit an environment where food was a little more scarce than nowadays. That's why people are overweight. Evolution didn't get it wrong.. we changed the rules. But for a HECK of a lot of other things, evolution has found the perfect balance... don't fuck with millions of years of trial & error. That's all I have to say. Yes, if you have a genetic disease, then you're merely correcting the "error" part of "trial & error". Don't forget that without the error part there's no trial part and no improvement..

    Look I'm really sorry if I've just laid drunken post on you guys.
    I just felt like saying something because I happen to be a few things. A /. & gnu/Linux geek, a biochemist and a bodybuilder.

    I felt like opining. Some of my opinions are based on research I've read for classes. Other parts are just speculation.

  • Sometimes I look at my 2 and 5 year old and wonder whether they'll be the first generation of the truly long-lived, and know that if they are I probably won't make it with them.

    Then I get that sense of parental wonder, what are these amazing little beings going to get up to... and the prospect of them staving off aging stretches that wonder out another order of magnitude.

  • Is there a gene that will give everyone excellent karma?
  • .. to come in Blue, please.

    Macka
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @06:05AM (#5466237) Homepage Journal
    Quite a while ago now I had a subscription to Analog (A sci fi magazine featuring short stories and speculation, most of which was pretty good.) One story dealt with a time when genetic engineering was becoming the norm. People whose parents had decided against tweaking their childrens' genes were unable to compete with the faster, stronger and smarter humans whose parents had decided to go the genetic engineering route. At one point a character mentions that they are seriously considering sueing their parents for screwing up any chance they could have had to do anything other than flip burgers.
  • by simpsonc6 (552427)
    The human body is one of the most complex systems on earth. Its complexity is so mind buggling, and that parameters of the body are interrelated with a huge number of bodily functions. Therefore by tweaking one parameter of the system and claiming that it would enhance one feature of the body without having any effects on the rest of the system is rather naive. Such a tweak is most likely to have disastrous effects on othe body functions. If such a tweak was possible, evolution had long discovered it. The fact that such a tweak [which probably occurred during evolution] did not survive should make us think twice. Don't underestimate the "wisdom/intelligence" of evolution.
    • by praksys (246544)
      If such a tweak was possible, evolution had long discovered it.

      You are wrong in two respects. Your first mistake is in supposing that the psuedo-goals of evolution are the same as our goals. Our genes aim to propagate, but we have other interests. So a "tweak" that looks bad to evolution (perhaps women who are smarter but have fewer children) might look just fine to us. Your second mistake is to suppose that evolution made us well suited to our current environment. Most of our adaptive characteristics arose to meet environmental challenges that no longer exist. For example, first world citizens do not, and will never, have to worry about starving to death, so all of our adaptations for dealing with food scarcity are a either pointless or even dangerous.

      Evolution is slow. Environmental change is fast. There is no reason to think that we could not, sometimes at least, do a better job of matching ourselves to our environment than natural selection would.
    • As someone else has already pointed out, you are making assumptions about what would be evolutionary beneficial to us that simply doesn't hold.

      For example, there is little evolutionary advantage for us in remaining physically strong after we've had children and brought them up. And in todays society, physical strength is less and less of an evolutionary advantage even earlier.

      On the other hand, there has been a distinct evolutionary disadvantage in being stronger than "needed": Muscle mass burn more calories, which mean you'll need to eat more to sustain yourself. Now, for most people in industrialized countries today this is an advantage, not a problem, as an increasing number of us struggle to keep slim and fit, but someone with less muscle mass, more body fat and low metabolism would be much more likely to survive a famine.

      Now this is an example of a case where evolution doesn't match todays society, where being overweight is a problem for many people, and doesn't provide the advantage, as most of us don't have to deal with famine. It's possible evolution will eventually catch up, but even then evolution will always reflect only what makes us most likely to procreate and create offspring that will survive, not on what give us a chance to live long, healthy, full lives.


  • Since evolution doesn't have speed... or goal.

  • Superman? Why Not? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mossfoot (310128) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @06:18AM (#5466286) Homepage
    The way I see it, we've been fighting evolution since the moment we created civilization. We help our sick and prolong the lives of people who otherwise would never have a chance to procreate.

    Heck, 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 of us need to wear glasses these day... I wonder if most animals suffer the equivelent proportions of bad eyesight within their species?

    Now I'm not against helping out the sick and weak whatsoever. Though we are animals we have the opportunity to be better than animals (note I say opportunity, it is not a freebie, gotta work for it). But I still if we are going to fight evolution, we should use whatever backdoor we can find to strengthen us as a species.

    Let's just hope we don't make ourselves genetically similar enough to let a single flu bug wipe us out later ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They think they can speed up a mail client by giving it features like blood? This is going to be even more bloated than Outlook... not good.
  • All those gym rats were wasting their time!
  • by AliasMoze (623272) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @09:39AM (#5466640)
    One Man's Opinion Here:

    Evolution is a powerful but imperfect engine. It's great at solving specific problems, but it comes with strange side effects, always, such as the human body's tendency to store fat. Overweight? Blame evolution for your outdated software. Compounding the problem is that evolved systems are difficult to understand, because evolution uses the whole environment to form solutions. Therefore, we won't fully understand our own genetics for a while. Our bodies are evolved with forces present that we can't even see.

    Sure, it's nice to tinker. Genetic research is inevitable and really not too far off from selective breeding that we do in life and with lifestock and plants. But there's a difference between using evolution and altering genes. Altering genes does not "speed up evolution". Gene therapy changes evolved code, and we have no idea what the results might be. Fix one thing, and you get a new problem. We will end up chasing windwills in search of the "perfect" body, or we will end up with specifically suited bodies -- people who can live well in zero g; people who can run fast; people who live long.

    And seriously, it's all fun and games until Khan strands you in the middle of an astroid.

    KKHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!
  • by aswang (92825) <aswang@fatoprofugus. n e t> on Saturday March 08, 2003 @01:15PM (#5467428) Homepage
    Let's ignore the fact that the most important problem in genetic engineering today is delivery (i.e., how to get the modifications to enter the body and stay there) and while there have been a lot of exciting breakthroughs, the problem is far from solved.

    While undoubtedly, all these growth factors will give benefits, like all substances, they have wonderful side effects. IGF has been linked to many types of cancer (although the mechanism is not understood) HGH will cause acromegaly and possibly (reading off the list of adverse reactions to Humatrope) leukemia, intracranial hemorrhage, and pancreatitis. And don't forget that, as mentioned in the article, the whole purpose of these factors is to promote cell division. And while cell division results in growth, it also increases the chances that some random error will occur and create an initiating mutation, eventually leading to malignancy.

    Good luck with winning the Olympic gold medal when your body is riddled with sarcoma and you're getting chemo and radiation.

  • star trek... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by josepha48 (13953) on Saturday March 08, 2003 @02:57PM (#5467916) Journal
    ... and the rath of Khan..

    Didn't they start out as 'super humans' and end up hating us 'none superhumans' and want to take over the world, cause they were better?

    Yeah it was science fiction, but the point to science fiction is often to teach us lessons, and in this case the lesson is, just becuase we can do this doesn't mean we should.

Arithmetic is being able to count up to twenty without taking off your shoes. -- Mickey Mouse

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