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Repairing Genetic Mutations With Lasers? 65

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the shed-a-little-light-on-your-genes dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "German researchers at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (CAU) think they've proved that genetic information can be controlled by light. The group studied the interaction between the four DNA bases — adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T) — by using femtosecond time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy. The researchers think that they've demonstrated that DNA strands differ in their light sensitivity depending on their base sequences. The team thinks that it might be possible in the future to repair gene mutations using laser radiation. One of the project leaders said that 'it might even be possible under some circumstances to make transistors from DNA that would work through the hydrogen bonds.' It's not the first time I've heard about DNA computing, but this new approach looks promising."
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Repairing Genetic Mutations With Lasers?

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  • good work (Score:4, Funny)

    by nicknamenottaken (1384173) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:05PM (#25361387)
    Good to see they're shedding light on the topic
  • woohoo! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by db32 (862117) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:11PM (#25361459) Journal
    Eugenics here we come!

    I have a wonderfully hilarious image of fundamentalists chasing homosexuals around with flashlights because they read the dumbed down Fox friendly version of this story.
    • Re:woohoo! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:34PM (#25361697)
      Does anyone else find it a really disturbing sign of the times that the parent was modded Insightful, not Funny?
      • Re:woohoo! (Score:4, Funny)

        by techno-vampire (666512) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:41PM (#25361771) Homepage
        Relax; it's probably just another case of using Insightful instead of Funny to give the poster an undeserved karma point.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by db32 (862117)
        I find it terribly disturbing and I am the poster!

        Though, to be serious, this type of science inevitably comes down to "cure those who are different".
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          In the defense of this, many times this being "different" is a severe biological inconvenience, and many people would like to be cured.
      • I find it more disturbing that it was marked overrated: that indicates that there may be some fundamentalists who already chase homosexuals with flashlights after watching fox, and they were offended.

      • Notice how this is about repairing mere mutations (different = BAD), rather than defects?
    • up being Torchlight Tragedy...?

      But, in the end if this is "God's" work, then assuming God is perfect, then all is as God wanted, and the humans are simply delusional through and through.

      Imagine the human body a car. The will the driver. If a sect or subclass of humans decides they have divination to go and destroy the genome with a flashlight (or by earth-shaking Sunday sermons and witch hunts, etc.) then the general population should be interested in or consider taking up maces, chain lines, and mauls and

      • What was that Jack asked/implored in, what, Witches of Eastwick: "Why can't we all just GET ALONG?"?

        So that's where that came from!

        It's one of the Warlock imp's quotes in World of Warcraft.

        Good to know that Jack's legacy will live on in the entertainment world.

    • by xant (99438)

      Fundies believe homosexuality is learned. If you see any running around holding flashlights in their fists, it's not eugenics, it's closeted gayness.

      • by db32 (862117)
        Why else would they have flashlights other than to see in the dark closet?

        That being said, I wouldn't say all fundies think it is learned. I remember not so long ago there was a fairly large push to "cure" the gay gene by some of their think tanks.
  • by robinsonne (952701) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:11PM (#25361469)
    From reading TFA, the researchers have seen that different bases will fluoresce different lengths of time when they shoot a laser at them. I can see where it might help with sequencing (as is mentioned in TFA) by recognizing the presumably fast glow pattern, but anything beyond that is plain wishful thinking on the part of the writer.

    One might also envisage linking the photophysical properties to genetic characteristics. When these mechanisms are better understood, it might in the long term become possible to repair gene mutations using laser radiation.

    I can imagine breeding flying pigs too, but I don't see it happening anytime soon either.
    • Yeah, I don't see any indication that you can actually manipulate genes in vivo using light at all. The quote by the researcher looks like it's only about diagnosing, observation. No mechanism at all about manipulation. It seems to be whoever was writing the article put that in without knowing anything about it.

      You have billions of base pairings in your genome, and each cell has a copy. The genome is in the nucleus of each cell, and most of your cells are, of course, inside of you. Even if you did surg

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:15PM (#25361509) Homepage Journal

    Like the ones that cause hair loss in men that was discovered earlier this week. :)

  • by Relic of the Future (118669) <dales@digitalMEN ... org minus author> on Monday October 13, 2008 @05:15PM (#25361515)
    Is that like a pin number?
    • by weirdo557 (959623)
      more like an atm machine
  • Interestingly, some of the Edgar Cayce trance-inspired therapies involved exposure to light in specific wavelengths. I wonder how well those went, and if there's any correspondence?
  • Laser beams (Score:2, Funny)

    by Krneki (1192201)

    Now we just need a couple of sharks.

  • I think i saw something like this in an old film called "fantastic voyage. But where will they get the minature sharks?
  • The time we start dictating what a genetic 'standard' is and classifying variations as 'mutations' is when we start playing God.

  • The Turtles and Splinter all lived in the dark, light forbidden labyrinth of the sewer... Coincidence?

    It all makes sense now.
  • Or name-your-genetic-disease-here. Putin will be thrilled.
  • ...if this can be weaponized? Like a laser that causes people's genes to horribly mutate.

  • I think 'reversing' would be a better word than 'repairing'. Not every mutation is harmful (though I'm sure a vast majority aren't beneficial).
  • I remember reading about a miniaturized submarine that was injected into a Russian defector, so that the teeny tiny crew could use a laser to repair a blood clot.
  • by Analogy Man (601298) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:30PM (#25364627)
    Now all those Trek episodes where they do genetic level medical procedures with a blue flashlight are a tiny bit less fantasy.
  • very bad summary (Score:4, Informative)

    by Rutulian (171771) on Monday October 13, 2008 @11:44PM (#25364685)

    Ok, that certainly has to be the worst layman's summary of a scientific paper I have ever seen. The actual article is here. [sciencemag.org] You will need a subscription to Science to read it, which most university libraries have. The researchers have used time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy to measure excited state lifetimes of DNA molecules. They found--surprise!--that the mean lifetimes are dependent on the structure of the molecules, which is ultimately dependent on the sequence.

    These are very difficult experiments to do, and the data is good, but there isn't anything particularly breathtaking about the results. Perhaps the resolution is a bit amazing. It is theoretically expected that sequences of 5'-d(AAGAAAAGAAAAGAAAAGAA)-3' and 5'-d(AAGAAGAAGAAGAAGAAGAA)-3' would have different decay properties, but you might not expect it to be measurable by an ensemble technique.

    Anyway, none of this has anything to do with the summary. This isn't "light sensitivity" of DNA. This can't be applied to DNA sequencing, at least not in any practical way. And there is no possibility of repairing genetic mutations with light. The computing thing...also quite a bit of a stretch. Of course, this isn't Roland's fault. He just quoted the German press release....

    • by john83 (923470)

      You know, this is why I still read Slashdot. In the midst of all the overlord jokes, the google-bashing and the inane repetition of people's opinions on the failed state of IP law, there's generally one guy who actually knows what he's talking about. Thank you.

      The researchers have used time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy to measure excited state lifetimes of DNA molecules... It is theoretically expected that sequences of 5'-d(AAGAAAAGAAAAGAAAAGAA)-3' and 5'-d(AAGAAGAAGAAGAAGAAGAA)-3' would have different decay properties, but you might not expect it to be measurable by an ensemble technique.

      So are these guys the first to do an ensemble measurement of this?

      Anyway, none of this has anything to do with the summary... Of course, this isn't Roland's fault. He just quoted the German press release....

      Ah, Roland. I should have noticed. Anyway, it's interesting to read the release and see what remarks are supported by quotes. As ever, the biggest claims aren't supported, but they are

      • by Rutulian (171771)

        So are these guys the first to do an ensemble measurement of this?

        They aren't the first to measure mean excited state lifetimes on DNA molecules. Without doing a literature search, though, I think they are the first to try to systematically measure it with regard to the single-stranded DNA sequence.

        As ever, the biggest claims aren't supported, but they are the ones which get reported.

        Yeah, unfortunately this happens a lot, often by the people doing the science in addition to the media. Sadly, it's what gets funding and keeps the public interest.

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