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Coffee's Caffeine-Producing Gene Isolated 194

matthewd writes: "Hackers everywhere should be interested in this AP article about the gene that is the key to caffeine production in coffee being isolated. (I also found another article that's almost a year old that is very similar.) Of course hackers wouldn't even be interested in coffee sans caffeine. However, once the genetic basis for caffeine production is isolated, the obvious application besides removing it from coffee is to insert this genetic codes into the human body, so that your body can produce caffeine on it's own (perhaps even regulated by the body's circadian rhythm). Everyone ready to hack their bodies?"

There is a broader implication though: It's known that many drugs come from or are discovered in naturally occuring plants and then synthesized. If the genetic basis for these types drugs can be discovered and replicated, you could turn the human body into it's own pharmacy. Maybe synthesizing salicin internally could be as effective as taking aspirin? (and less irritating for your stomach) Or maybe if the fundamental genetic operations that synthesize chemicals/proteins is discovered (the microcode of cells?) you could even synthesize chemicals that don't occur naturally. Perhaps in the future a "pharmaceutical organ" will be hacked into the human body specifically for this purpose.

Of course there's the other side to this, where people will want to synthesize certain chemcials in opiates or marijuana ... Fun to speculate about, at least!"

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Coffee's Caffiene-Producing Gene Isolated

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  • I want that gene grafted into my pancreas!
  • by TCaptain ( 115352 ) <slashdot.20.tcap ...> on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:34AM (#813374)

    What's the point of drinking coffee then?

    I mean what's next...non-alcoholic beer?


  • Wasn't there a few sci-fi books in the 70's about a society where children are created that do not sleep? What kind of society does slashdot think would be created as a result (seriously)?
  • by MattLesko ( 155081 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:34AM (#813376)
    What would be the point of taking a pill to make your body naturally produce caffeine than taking a pill of caffeine? Still need to take something. And if you just want something that drips into your synapse 24 hrs. a day, why don't you just create something to coax your body to make it's innate productivity enhancers? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that the way brain-affecting drugs worked was that they were analogues to internal chemicals, meaning that they bind to the same receptors, but are not actually those chemicals.

    You are more than the sum of what you consume.
  • If I were cleverer I would come up with a way to convert this to a song along the lines of 'Rock the body'...
    Like 'Who's got the Knowledge to Hack your Body?!'

    Come on, someone run with that idea.>:)

  • Then what's the point? We'd get accustomed to levels of it in our blood stream and it wouldn't be as effective. Unless we make more. I can see it now. Instead of Blood Alcohol Content, we'll be measuring Blood Caffeine Content.
    Excuse me sir, can you walk this straight line while touching your nose?
    And do you think Coke and Pepsi will really let this happen? Unless they work it so that their drinks are the way the genes are spliced into our own, I don't think so.
  • by cronio ( 13526 )
    This would bring a whole new meaning to the term "wired with caffeine".

    Hmm, if you could have your body produce drugs on demand, that would be really cool.
    "Hey man...wanna get high?"
    "Sure...hold on a sec" (turns on his marijuana-producing gland) "wheeeeee"

    Not reading .sig
  • So does this mean that we will finally be able to have a pure caffiene drip that's affordable for those late-night code sessions?
  • by interiot ( 50685 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:36AM (#813381) Homepage
    I've been wanting to hack my body for a long time. I want to hook some unused nerves up as the input and output of a wearable computer with wireless internet access. That way, I could look up the definition of a word without anyone knowing I didn't know what it meant. Other applications include:
    • The obvious first use of any new technology *g*
    • A beowulf cluster of brains, of course
    • Use any spare cycles to read Slashdot
  • If we did all this stuff to our bodies, something will adapt and we will still get sick. Nothing is infalible when it comes to biological organisms.

    Even the samurai
    have teddy bears,
    and even the teddy bears

  • Do you think I could use the gene to synthesize Viagra?

    And have it released in a circadian cycle? (like in the middle of the night. Wake up, Hot Mama, Daddy's home :)

  • rather than putting the gene in your body, which sounds kinda gross, why not add it into every other food and beverage item available.

    mmm.. caffinated pickles...


    Fsck the millennium, we want it now.
  • removing it from coffee is to insert this genetic codes into the human body, so that your body can produce caffiene on it's own (perhaps even regulated by the body's circadian rhythm). Everyone ready to hack their bodies?

    All right! Let's get started researching the alchohol, niccotine, and THC producing molocules right away!

  • by swingkid ( 3585 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:37AM (#813386)
    They'll get sued by Starbucks & Juan Valdez for violation of copyright protection under the DMCA
  • Does anybody know if it is healthier to take caffeine in extracted, pill form than drinking it in coffee? I would imagine the impurities present in coffee are partially responsible for some of the side effects.
  • A Mr. Coffee is REALLY a Mr. coffee
  • by crgrace ( 220738 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:39AM (#813389)
    That's a neat idea about having the body produce its own caffeine. In fact our body produces something quite similar already: endorphin.

    Anyone who's a long-distance runner knows the sweet feeling you get after a long run and how you get irritable and a little depressed when you don't run for a few days. This isn't so different from when my father used to get headaches without his morning coffee. We were both addicts: him to caffeine, me to endorphin.

    It seems hacking your body so you get your morning caffeine without drinking coffee is like hacking your body to get endorphin with the requisite run. I think both of these miss the point: caffeine is only a pleasant side effect of people's very pleasurable coffee ritual just as endorphin is a pleasant side effect of doing something good for your body. To get these things without the work turns these rituals into just "using drugs". If the only reason people drank coffee was to get caffeine, we'd just start smoking crack cause it's much more effective and not much more expensive than Starbucks!

  • Naturally caffeinated potatos (or potatoes)... caffeinated celery... caffeinated parsley... caffeinated beef (mmmm)...
  • So does this mean that we can start lacing other stuff with caffeine? Cutting the grass just became a nighttime job.. You don't have to bother with actual coffee for your caffeine anymore..
  • Hmmm... I wonder if they could isolate the THC gene from cannabis sativa, then I could be permanently out of my tree...

    I think I met a lawyer the other day who's already done this, judging by his dopey demeanor. I'll bet the bastard's patented it already too!

  • Didn't you teacher ever teach you that its "i before e except after f". Geez, kids these days.

  • I was considering taking place in a sleep deprivation study (I had a ton of homework to do anyway...) until I heard about a Radio DJ who went 2 weeks without sleep and was forever changed. He became irritable and eventually commited suicide. From this anecdote (the facts may be a little off), I conclude that people need at least a little sleep for the brain to function normally. I'd hate to see a world where no one got sleep.
  • As the poster points out, many drugs are first discovered in plants/animals and then synthesized. This is what makes the loss of the rain forest and other areas of great genetic diversity so scary, imagine the great potential for new drugs and treatmeants that is lost along with them.
  • Ever since I read [] that the Joy of Cola was just a caffeine buzz I stopped drinking any caffeinated beverage.

    Microsoft is Evil []
  • by Soruk ( 225361 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:42AM (#813397) Homepage
    But is the world ready for genetically altered java?

    Guess so, Microsoft have been doing it for years now.

  • Well, IAMAS (I Am Not A Scientist) but I would think that this could be better regulated by your body. If you take a fat load of caffeine pills you will get sick or die. However, it may be that if you were to take a pill to coax your body into creating it, you might not be able to overdose since there's only so much your body can produce at once.

    In any case, I like this because I have trouble staying awake and have really low blood pressure as it is, so this could be a good thing for me. Maybe I can even get an injection that could last a month. There are endless possibilities.

  • Endorphins aren't similar to caffeine, they're similar to opiates.

  • i can't imagine what would happen to dracula!! --drunk drank drink
  • by Luminous ( 192747 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:42AM (#813401) Journal
    I see you've made the jump right to human's with caffeine producing genes (one cannibal to another, "I knew these caffeinated people are bad for me, but I'm so addicted") but I think there are much better things to splice caffeine into.

    Caffeinated fruit. Strawberries, bananas, grapes, oranges, you get the picture. Be healthy and get your wake up effect. Or just caffeinated tomatoes to help make Bloody Mary's better.

    Caffeinated coffee beans. What?, you say, aren't coffee beans already caffeinated? Yep. But who says you can't enhance the genetic sequence to get the Super-Caffeinated bean?

    Caffeinated malt, barley, and hops for the perfect all natural Beer for a little of the hair of the dog that bit you and a quick pick me up.

  • Why screw around with synapses and "innate productivity enhancers"? If you really "need to take something" just smoke crack. I really don't think people drink coffee to get a caffeine fix. If that were true people would just pop Excederin all day which gives you a pretty good caffeine induced kick-in-the-pants.
  • What kind of society does slashdot think would be created as a result (seriously)?

    A very pissed off, aggrivated society. It's been proven scientifically* that sleep deprivation raises aggresiveness. The human body needs to shut down every so often to recharge itself.

    *In the same way that it was proved that behavioral psychiatrists ring bells whenever dogs salivate.


  • Say you body DID produce caffiene, after awhile your body would either become toterle or emune (god I can't spell) to caffiene to such an extent that you body would have to produce more, which it would come to toterlate as normal. Till one day you body would be in a state that caffiene would no longer have any noticeable effect (reguards of the dose). Then what the hell would you do for a caffiene buzz? Crank?

    I would still donate my body to science for this. 3 hours to no sleep sounds like fun!
  • Caffiene just prevents you from sleeping, and thats it. Caffiene is no substitute for a long nites rest. The body needs sleep and it doesnt matter how many drugs you pump into a person, the body will allways need sleep. Obviously, I am no scientist, but I am pretty sure thats all caffiene is good for. I think we got a while until scientists can actually create drugs that give the body what it really needs when we sleep, if at all possible.
  • "Beggars in Spain", "Beggars and Choosers", and "Beggars Ride" by Nancy Kress. The first was published sometime in the 80s.
  • For info on caffine. []
  • If we had the ability to produce our own caffiene or any other chemical, that wouldn't really accomplish anything, since our bodies would just eventually build up a resistance to whatever our "PharmaGland(tm)" produces. The only way this could be practical is if we could limit what our PharmaGland(tm) produces, ie. you only get your medicine for a week and then it cuts off.

    But controlling what our body produces would require either chemical controls (essentially more medicine) or constant genetic re-engineering of the PharmaGland(tm). And as any geneticist can tell you, you can only alter a set of genes so many times before they start to fall apart.

    P.S. It's my name. I thought of it first. I'm filing the trademarks for PharmaGland(tm) right now. I have so little, don't take this away from me.
  • I would imagine the impurities present in coffee are partially responsible for some of the side effects.

    What side effects? Caffeine, like Aspirin seem to be among those rare drugs with almost no bad side effects, when consumed in moderation.

  • by gunner800 ( 142959 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:47AM (#813410) Homepage
    As a general rule, you acquire a tolerance for drugs if you are exposed to them over time. I speak from personal experience that with caffeine, you eventually need more for the same effect. I've heard a lot of anecdotal evidence that the same applies to aspirin.

    If you could have a way to turn drug production on and off, this might work. But chances are the way to toggle production would involve some other drug, which brings in its own complication.

    However, there is something to be said for natural drugs instead of the synthetic "equivalent". Many people complain that (pills and tasty treats containing) lab-created caffeine irritates their stomach more than natural caffeine.

    Perhaps we can set up the human-organ-producing pigs to also produce caffeine. Then my new heart will be pre-adjusted to my addiction.

    My mom is not a Karma whore!

  • Probably you wont last long enough for that, since a continuous supply of caffeine would probably trigger a haemorrhage within a a week or so...
  • Novicaine was created by a bunch of chemists who had decided to try and synthesize cocaine. At the time, cocaine was commonly in use as a pain killer for things like nasal surgery (!) and dental surgery, but it was hard to get it in a pure form. So the chemists tried to synthesize it. They ended up with something that worked better - and differently - than they expected, but they didn't end up with cocaine.

    Synthesizing any sort of a chemical involving large amounts of carbon is fiendishly difficult, as you can get something that is chemically equivalent and yet doesn't behave the same. And then you can get something that is chemically identical, right down to the way it folds, but is chirally different.

    Anyone know if chirally opposite caffeine works on the brain? I'll stick with my coffee plunger until then.
  • Genetic Ubergeek Manipulation Project (GUMP) has just announced a breakthrough in gene therapy. They were able to splice the caffiene gene into the human genome.

    "We are pleased to announce that the human body can manufacture caffiene. At this time we are only able to get mucous membranes to generate caffiene, but we are sure we'll be able to get other tissues to secrete this all important chemical in no time," said the groups founder Wally Heemuckle. Despite his rather haggard appearance (he looks like he hasn't slept for twelve days) he was able to continue, "And the cure is also just around the corner."

    Other company employees were seen blowing their noses frequently, and placing the used tissues into bins labelled "To be processed".

    This is Horatio Hornblower from passive 7, know one nose your news like we do. Goodnight.


    Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
  • Caffeine is a beta2 agonist, so you get a certain amount of CNS stimulation from consuming it.
  • Kinda looks like Killroy...

  • Aside from wanting to be the first person on my block to have a cyberjack i would probably want to be the first person i know to have a "caffine implant" Coffee takes a good half hour to an hour to kick in fully. Now if i could have a caffine implant in my brain to release directly into my nervous system... "honey your going to be late for work again" *rubs temple*"YEEEEEAAAERRGHHYeaa!!!!" (shot of large man running out the door with car keys in hand) Instant caffine implant? hell sign me up. -you see young child, sometimes the mongoose..she dont always win.
  • Of course hackers wouldn't even be interested in coffee sans caffiene.

    Speak for yourself. While I may catch heat for saying it, I ingest very little caffeine in a day. I'm not being judgemental, if you want to drink it, that's fine. But don't make it sound like all hackers are made with the same mold. Some of us drink Sprint and code with the lights on.

  • Now that we've found the gene, we need to integrate it into a new mutant breed of super-ultra-hyper-caffeinated humans. Perhaps my children will be able to live as I always wanted to, twitching and delusional 24/7, able to code for days on end without sleep. It's an amazing time we live in. *tearing up* God bless America.

    Perhaps... perhaps they will even create a medication that will lower my caffeine tolerance back to mortal levels. I haven't gotten a coffee-buzz in years. I only get messed up and neurotic if I don't have enough coffee, and that's no fun. I like coffee.

    All generalizations are false.

  • Somehow I'm not seeing the merit in endowing the body with the ability to produce caffeine. It's a pretty poor substitute for something the body already creates: adrenaline.

    Rather, wouldn't it be much easier to get kids to eat their broccoli if they knew it was caffeinated? Heck, I'd eat it...


  • by devphil ( 51341 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:50AM (#813420) Homepage

    Hmmmm. Creating our own painkillers as a replacement for aspirin? Let's extend the logic and see where this takes us.

    As an insulin-dependant diabetic, I'd love to be able to tell my Generic Organ Implant[tm] to act like a pancreas and start kicking out insulin. (Given that my real pancreas is as useful as a paperweight as far as sugar conversion goes, and useless even as a paperweight given that it's sitting somewhere behind a kidney.)

    Of course, given the technology to do that, I could presumably send the same message to my real pancreas, waking it up and telling it to earn its damn keep for once.

    But let's extend this idea even further. Reprogrammable Organs! The body's own equivalent of FPGA's! Say I've been slacking on code and am running behind the product's shipping schedule -- I just tell my pancreas to hold off on insulin and start behaving like a brain to increase my programming speed. In the meantime, I revert to injecting insulin. Or tell one of my leg muscles to act like a pancreas, since I'm not using the legs anyhow (I'm sitting in a chair coding, remember).

    The make-yer-own-apsirin idea is pointless anyhow. We already manufacture our own painkillers. They're called endorphins; a lot of painkillers are just synthetic endorphin analogues.

  • It's probably slightly less healthy to take it in pill form. It's not completely clear why, but pills seem to hit the body harder (more effectively) than coffee. It's likely that caffeine is absorbed more quickly in pill form.

    All of the known sides of caffeine are directly related to its method of action in vivo. There are no "impurities" to worry about.
  • by CrosseyedPainless ( 27978 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:50AM (#813422) Homepage
    In his "Culture" novels, the people have the ability to produce hundreds of pharmaceuticals in their genetically engineered glands. Nice to see it so close to happening in Real Life!

    I guess I'll gland some Active and get back to work....
  • it appears as though you yourself incorrectly spelled the incorrect spelling of the word you said was "misspelled".
  • I could actually have my body produce it's own beer. This could be the greatest thing since beer goggles.
  • Thank you, it must of been the battered nature of the copy that I read to make me think it was that much older.
  • by way2slo ( 151122 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @10:52AM (#813426) Journal
    Let us not forget that our bodies build up a tolerance to drugs. In the long run, you need more of whatever drug or chemical to get the same level of stimulation. So having glands in our bodies that produce caffiene all the time would be a waste because our bodies would just become use to that level and we would feel nothing from it. Having them pumping through our veins all the time may not be the best solution.

    Instead, have glands that we can "control" in some fashion. When we need the caffiene, we have the gland make it. When we need the medicine, we have the gland make it. When we don't need it anymore, we turn it off.

  • caffeinated bacon. baconated grapefruit. where will it end?

  • What a great idea! You could build the world's greatest football player! Jerry Rice could configure his legs muscles as fast-twitch so he could burn the cornerback off the line and after he catches the pass he could reconfigure them as slow-twitch to run the 80 yards to the endzone.

    He'd be unstoppable! Unless of course the Muscle Controller (running Windows 2010 of course) crashes and reconfigures his leg muscles into pure fat!

  • How many want to bet that the first real world use of this technology will be to insert viagra producing genes into porn stars?
  • This has obvious military implications, and could very well be the "stim-packs" of science fiction, except it would be internally generated. Perhaps we'll hack into us abilities that we've only ever thought would be applied externally. Characters like Wolverine from the X-Men - a science-fictional character born with natural abilities, can now be recreated. Imagine a navy seal behind the enemy lines with a bullet-proof vest. Against non-armour piercing bullets, he'll be practically invincible (save for head-shots). He could endure bullet wounds which hit the chest without stopping for a beat (except from recoil). He could take the place of 10 men on the battle-field, and he wouldn't have to carry much technological gadgets (pain suppressors are all built into his organs). Great way to complement the Land Warrior program.

    Now, imagine a team of 4 of these guys walking right into Saddam's house, taking out all his guards, then forcing him to swallow a timed grenade wrapped in a condom? :)


  • Ben's right. One's pituitary gland also makes some crazy tryptamines... I'd much rather have be able to turn on and off endorphines and 5-MeO-DMT whenever I wanted. Sure as hell would beat being sick from caffeine all the time.
  • How to screw your body up with the byproducts of this sort of do-it-to-yourself chemistry. Aside from getting the body to do useless things like manufacture caffiene (when there's a perfectly good source of it in q-q-quadruple es-s-s-spresso) genetic research on other fronts have been useful in trying to find a cure for Juvenile Diabetes by getting a diabetics body to manufacture it's own insulin.

    I'm also not sure our conscious minds are better at regulating compounds in our bloodstreams than bio/analog processes, considering how judgement becomes impared with acclimation to a compound. i.e. becoming chemically dependant rather than just psychologically.

    IMHO these are apples and sausages issues, has any warmblooded creature been found which produces the common plant compound of Caffeine?

    The original story I heard on this was to breed plants to grow caffeine free tea and coffee. Quite a stretch from this posts interpretations.

    Vote [] Naked 2000
  • Caffeine prevents sleep? Damn, somebody better tell that to my cells. I drink a couple of Mountain Dews at night and I'm out like a light. Of course, if I don't drink them, I don't fall asleep, and don't sleep well, I fall asleep about three minutes before the alarm goes off, and I don't get up when it does go off.

    *YAWN* I wish my wife wasn't trying to break me of the pop habit. Trying to be healthy is going to kill me yet!
  • I went to visit the US last month for the first time... I never had coffee that allowed you to see the bottom of the cup. YES, IT IS TRUE coffee in the US is horrible!!!

    Being 7 hours jet-lagged and deprived of REAL coffee was not fun at all. After 3-5 cups (30cl cups) I had to go and sleep in the bathroom.

    The strangest was seing people taking out the foam of expressos using some specialized metal cups... Expresso machines are supposed to make foam. The foam has to be thick enough to sustain a packet of sugar for a few seconds...

    So, before you start knocking-in caffeine genes into the genome of your future children, please, please, please, start brewing better coffee.


  • I guess I'll gland some Active and get back to work....

    Oh no! Microsoft is going to get its products into our bodies, too! They'll probably buy out the developer of the genes for improving eyesight, just so they can get the name Visual, too.

  • They'd have to have a new test.

    "Please stand still on your foot and touch your nose for 30 seconds."

    or, if your pulse is over 200 beats/minute.

  • Actually, all higher animals need to sleep. Snakes and most (all?) other reptiles, mammals, birds...all need sleep.

    Sleep deprivation leads to all sorts of problems, eventually ending in death due to massive organ failure (prompted by your chemical balance going out of whack -- toxic degrees of chemical imbalance). Not a fun way to die, I'm sure.

  • I thought you got side effects from de-caffeinated (sp?) coffee, seeing how they use super chemicals (like cyanide) to remove the caffeine.
  • Flash forward x years .. humans have developed ways for any needed drug to be synthesized by the body. Let's say it works like this ... you go to the doctor to take a pill. The pill itself is not the medication, but instructions for your body on how to actually produce the medication.

    So your body receives the encoded messages, begins producing the medication, and you never have to take that medication again. The pills could be tuned -- 'produce y drug for z number of days, but only when you're awake'.

    What has been one of the leading end goals that technology has been stirving towards? The answer is 'understanding of the human body'. There's a market here .. imagine recording your dreams. Possible once we figure out how the brain works. Stephenson, Heinlein, Dick, et. al. have been writing about this stuff for years.

    The other thing we're working towards is being able to replicate the human body's potential inside an artifical environment. I think this is a natural thing to do .. to want to better understand yourself and your environment. So if we were going to create a new race of things, of beings, of robots, of organisms, we'd want them to have the same capabilities we did.

    So how can we preclude the fact that it hasn't happened already? How can we say for sure that we, ourselves, are not just by-products of similar beings ... beings who studied themselves until they understood ... and were finally able to recreate themselves.


    The workings of our bodies is nothing more than an operating system. Once we understand how it works, we'll be able to replicate it, just as we may have already been.

    I wonder what the IRQ is for creativity?
  • by KFury ( 19522 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @11:08AM (#813440) Homepage
    What would this lead to? Soylent Green in regular and decaf?

    Kevin Fox
  • Radio DJ who went 2 weeks without sleep

    IIRC, he was also using amphetamines or a similar high-potency stimulant during the stunt.

    I local DJ (Willie B, you've prolly heard him if you live near Denver) went for a world record a while back, and I think he ended up with like 3-4 weeks of sleep deprivation, and doesn't seem to be any crazier than when he started.

    That's not to say different people are not affected differently, just that the famous case of the DJ that died is prolly more related to the drugs rather than lack of sleep.


  • by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @11:11AM (#813442) Homepage
    Crack is considerably less expensive than Starbucks. Tastes better, too.
  • Caffiene free coffee -- those words are heresy!

    If you don't smell like coffee when you sweat, you don't drink enough.

    Decaffeinated coffee is the devil's brew []

  • Anyone who's a long-distance runner knows the sweet feeling you get after a long run and how you get irritable and a little depressed when you don't run for a few days. This isn't so different from when my father used to get headaches without his morning coffee. We were both addicts: him to caffeine, me to endorphin.

    So endorphins are the reason I always feel so good after a good thrash metal session on the guitar heh? My irritability comes whether I play or not though. I get irritable when I don't play (built up energy, plus I suppose the effects of endorphin withdrawal). Plus I get irritable when I play (something about the neighbors calling the cops cause your playing at 110 db again at 2 am;-).

    The previous sentence is a joke, I only play on weekends when I know the neighbors are gone. Unless I'm angry with them for something :-).
  • Sex without making a kid?
  • the end of Mt. Dew civilization as we know it!

    What will programmers drink now? Water?

  • Trust me, you do NOT want to fsck with your cAMP levels like that. Get the levels just right, in the right tissues, and you could reproduce cholera toxin poisoning. Explosive diarrhoea anyone?
  • What you are describing is exactally the experience I have. From what I understand it is a form/symptom of ADD.

    A certian part of you brain is stimulation deprived... This causes anxiety, a loss in attention span, and a few other nasty things. Anyway ritilen is an excellent stimulant to provide the necessary stimulation to that part of your brain that requires it, but the problem with ritilen is that it is also a powerfull drug with many side effects. Caffine also has the ability to stimiluate that part of the brain. By injesting Caffine/ritilen you are providing the stimulation necessary to the stimulation deprived part of the brain and a by product is the relief of the anxiety which allows you to relax and fall in the medative state which is required for sleep.

    But of course IANAD (I am not a doctor ) so I may be way off base. It certianly is a good explanation of why giving a stimulate, ritilen, to ADHD people calms them down. Where if you gave ritilen to a non ADD/ADHD person it has the effect of a high, poor mans coke.

    Anyway enough babling... Back to work!

  • by BranMan ( 29917 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @11:23AM (#813450)
    The idea that we could create an artificial organ that could produce drugs on demand is really intriguing. Taking some material from Steven R. Donaldson's SciFi quintilligy (five book trillogy) I could see where that would be quite useful.

    Imaging such an organ under concious control of its host (via electrodes in the brain or some such mechanism). In a tough spot and need everything you can muster? Poof! Produce a ton of adrenelin and other support chemicals to maximize your speed/strength/etc. Injured? Poof! Dump endorphins into your bloodstream to keep you from passing out from the pain, so you can get yourself to a hospital. Cramming for the final or falling asleep on a long drive? Poof! Measured caffine to keep you alert.
    How about self-preservation? Detects the body has gotten too much anestesia during an operation - put out some stimulants. Need to fake your death? Have it out out measured amounts of curarae to simulate death.
    And for spies, a suicide pill they can't take away from you.
    The possibilities are endless.
    Of course, whenever you use something like this you'll pay the price later (fatigue, twiches, withdrawl, migranes) - you never get something for nothing. But wouldn't it be great to have the choice?
  • Coffee takes a good half hour to an hour to kick in fully.

    Crunch it dry. Hits you within a minute that way.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @11:37AM (#813456) Journal
    There is not just *one* gene responsible for producing caffeine, or any biomolecule. They are all produced through pathways consisting of multiple enzymes, and some sort of complex regulatory system where the cell might produce another molecule that inhibits one or more of the enzymes, or it may just stop producing enzymes and the "assembly line" get's backed up.

    I like that analogy. Each enzyme is like a laborer on an assembly line. What they've found here is one gene that makes one enzyme. Disable that gene and the assembly line can't procede past a certain point. You cannot just stick that gene in another organism, and expect to have a caffeine factory!

    It is however done, that bacteria are altered to produce chemicals, however in these cases, we don't care about gene regulation. They can spew out all the insulin they can!

    A side thought about what they're proposing here. Many of these pathways are down-regulated by end product. It's feedback inhibition, like a thermostat. But I see a possible problem here. Say you have a 2 step process going from compound A through intermediate B and finishing at product C

    ^ |

    (please excuse the awful ascii art)

    product C, in high concentrations stops production of intermediate B, but if the step from B to C is stopped, say by removing the gene for the necessary enzyme, there's nothing to stop the production of B, you'll end up with tons of B which may taste bad, be unhealthy, something, and no A, which may be required for something else.

    B BB B
    B B B
    BBB B BB
    BB BB B B

    Just some thoughts
  • The "runner's high" is an adaptation designed to allow people's bodies to continue to operate under extreme duress -- the endorphins help counteract the physical pain and psychological stresses of difficult activities.

    Caffeine, on the other hand, jacks the body up. It increases nervous system activity throughout the body by basically lowering the threshold for signals passing between nerve cells. It's "enjoyable" effects are largely conditioned response, as people learn to expect and appreciate the perceived increase in their mental and physical energy levels.

    Drinking coffee is "just doing drugs," albeit in a socially acceptable and ritualistic fashion. Many "hard" drug users have an equal amount of daily ritual to their usage, and probably gain similar psychological imprinting. If you want to make caffeine a more "natural" reward, then trigger its release only after certain phsyical criteria are met, just as endorphins are only released when the body has a reason for it.

    However, the body already has a similar response in its use of adrenaline (or epinephrine to you Europeans out there). It would be difficult to find situations in which caffeine was a more physically useful stimulant, especially since its use carries at least as many (arguably worse) side effects as adrenaline.

  • by baka_boy ( 171146 ) <> on Thursday August 31, 2000 @11:50AM (#813460) Homepage
    You are only partially wrong. Most neurologically active drugs do indeed bind to receptors of endogenous chemicals that they "impersonate," and have a direct effect on the levels and/or action of that transmitter. However, they seldom function as simple analogues -- a single drug can bind to many types of receptors, and can directly increase or decrease the levels of many endogenous compounds.

    Caffeine, though, is sort of a special case. Unlike the "classic" stimulants such as amphetamine, cocaine, or ephedra, it does not have a dramatic effect on dopamine or epinephrine (adrenaline) levels in the CNS. Instead, it increases calcium ion transfer in the nervous system, effectively lowering the threshold for a signal to get through. Every nerve cell in your body simply becomes more active, but continues carrying more or less the same data as before.

    Think of it this way: Most drugs work like new components in a computer, such as a processor or drive. Just like a processor upgrade, or new sound card, they fundamentally alter the way it operates, and may or may not be totally compatible with the rest of the system. Caffeine, on the other hand, is much more like overclocking the system bus. None of the data being transferred changes, but it moves at a faster rate from place to place.

    Unfortunately, just like OC'ing a machine, caffeinating your body doesn't do wonders for its reliability. Sometimes those nerve cells really don't take well to being pushed harder, and the signals start getting noisy while passing from place to place. Hence, the random tics and changes in mental state that accompany ecessive use of caffeine.

    Not that I would have it any other way, mind you...

  • You're way off. Caffeine stimulates high blood pressure, increases heart rate, I think it also increases perspiration. Anyways the first two could be fatal given an existing heart condition. Not very dangerous, but nothing to forget about either.

    Regarding high doses, caffeine is the only drug that when given to rats in high doses will cause the rats to attack other rats or themselves. Crack won't do it, PCP won't do it, not even the Demon weed will do it. Imagine if they found this behavior with cocaine or heroin, the media would have a field day! But, I bet this is the first time most of you have heard of this.

  • by quantum bit ( 225091 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @11:55AM (#813464) Journal
    And will push to force people to use DeCAF...
  • Of course there's the other side to this, where people will want to synthesize certain chemcials in opiates or marijuana ... Fun to speculate about, at least!

    No kidding. Some day, it'll be feasible for someone to graft a THC gene into his own body so that he basically pisses marijuana. It's already silly for governments to wage war on a naturally occurring feral plant, but how much sillier will it be when it's no longer an external plant but instead one's own body? What'll happen when some enterprising and politically conscious person hacks his own genetic code so as to shit pellets with DeCSS engraved on them? Will his own offspring be contraband?
  • The word "endorphin" is actually short for "endogenous morphine" -- basically, when endorphins were isolated and studied, morphine was already well-known, so they were simply identified as the body's closest naturally-occuring substitute.

    Just think: if things had gone a little differently, you could be calling dopamine 'endophetam', or serotonin 'endobanis'...

  • Head to the Midwest, and get yourself a good Lutheran cup of coffee - guaranteed not to disapoint.

    My coffee and my beer are about the same color and consistency (I drink Guinness).
  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @12:17PM (#813473) Journal
    One recent theory of sleep is that the bloodstream can't carry enough energy to the brain to sustain it. While awake, brains use bloodstream-delivered energy and stored energy. Sleep is needed to recharge the stored energy -- apparently it's stored in glial cells.

    It will be quite a challenge to alter the physiology and chemistry enough to solve that problem.

    This theory arose out of the simple observation that not having to sleep would be a tremendous evolutionary advantage -- so why are there not more animals that do not sleep? Instead, it seems sleep is a biological imperative, so there is probably some very basic requirement for it. Even fruit flies sleep -- do you really think they need to dream or store many memories?

  • I drink a couple of Mountain Dews at night and I'm out like a light.

    Is that american or canadian Mountain Dew? =^)

    Actually, with the exception of some Red Bull that my sister imported me from the UK (not avaliable for sale in Canada), i really haven't noticed caffiene affecting my sleep patterns one way or the other. I still have the ability to stay up all night without it, and to sleep early after drinking it. I just like caffeinated beverages because of the taste.

    i've looked at love from both sides now. from win and lose, and still somehow...

  • It's not anywhere near close to happening yet. Remember all those news reports a couple of months ago about unexpected deaths during gene therapy? People were dying while doctors were trying to change alter a few genes that were already present in the human genome. Splicing a totally new caffeine-generating gene into human DNA is not only several orders of magnitude more complex, it is also largely pointless without years of additional study, testing, and exploration of the human genome.

    Remeber, there are a lot of genes in our DNA that don't do anything in most people -- they may code proteins that predecessor speceis used, or they may simply not be activated. In order to add caffeine synthesis to the human body's bag of tricks, you would not only need to add the gene that describes the synthetic process (which would undoubtedly be very, very different in a mallaian body than in a plant), you would need to set up an entire production system. That means either "hacking" a custom gland, tapping the resources of an existing one, generating it in various cells throughout the body, etc.

    Every one of these changes carries the risk of causing all kinds of nasty chemical imbalances, genetic defects, or just plain wierd side effects completely independent of increased caffeine levels. I for one will not be jumping in to have by DNA tweaked anywhere near that drastically until the study of human genetics and biochemistry is significantly further along.

  • by uebernewby ( 149493 ) on Thursday August 31, 2000 @12:36PM (#813488) Homepage
    Endorphins are like opiates: they're painkillers, not stimulants. You can, kinda, get addicted to them, too, or at least train your body to produce more of them given certain stimuli. An example from daily life would be the popularity of spicy food: in reaction to the pepper/chilli/blowtorch, the brain releases some endorphins to lessen the painful sensation you get from ingesting spicy foods. We perceive this release of endorphins to be pleasurable, in much the same way that a junkie perceives his shot of Heroin to be pleasurable. This probably explains the popularity of Mexican/Indian/etc. food.

    If you eat a lot of these foods over a prolonged period of time, you begin to become tolerant to the levels of endorphin that are released after each meal. The level of spiciness ("mild", say) you started out with no longer serves to give you your kick. So you move on to "fairly hot" and eventually "blitzkrieg" in order to "keep up your habit".

    Certain people are genetically made up in such a way that their bodies produce a larger amount of endorphins for a certain stimulus than others. I'm sure everyone knows someone who can take pain better that everyone else. This is not because they are real live macho's, but simply because they release so much endorphins they feel the pain less.

  • What do you mean drinking too much?

    I only drank one pot of coffee today. I cut down to two pots of coffee a day.

    I had no problem reading this.

  • Since my body is prolly already producing its caffine I might not care about this. I drink so much coke these days that my blood is probably 50% caffinated or more. You will hardly catch me without a coke in my hand.

    Most hackers, sys admins and techies in general are prolly thinking the same thing.

    Though it'd be nice for when I couldn't find a coke. Just need to find a way to make the process slow down or pick up as needed. Might have to install a dial. Only prob is if someone turns it up too fast by accident you might get seizures or something. It'd create a whole new series of medical problems (overdosing during pregnancy for instance)
  • [ Disclaimer: This post contains non-defamatory references to decaffienated coffee. Please do not assume that the author is a caffiene heretic, he's just making a point. All praise be to caffiene. ]

    Alright, that said, I think this could really improve the state of decaf coffee. Currently, the way they make it is to (essentially) brew the beans once with an icky batch of chemicals that supposedly sucks out the caffiene, but leaves the flavor it. Yeah, right.

    But, if they could just disable the caf-gene so the caffeine was never produced at all, then no intermediate step, and therefore better decaf! This would be useful for those times when you're trying to "cut down" because you're drinking 15 cups a day... switch a few to genetically engineered decaf, and you get all the yummy fun without all the speed.

  • Yes, it's true. We, as a race, have been hacking our bodies since we've had them. Many of you probably have similar daily hacks that you perfom, as do I, to tune and enhance the operation of our bodies.

    We eat and drink caffeinated foods and beverages in an effort to enhance alertness and to defeat our own circadian rythms. We wear eyeglasses in order to improve on factory standard equipment and to protect these vital tissues from damaging rays whilst out and about in the Big Blue Room. Some of us even submit these oh-so-tender pieces of flesh to the awesome might of a laser for input correction and re-alignment. We wear an assortment of braces and supports to relieve muscle pain and fatigue, use caustic chemicals to enhance our physical appearance, and braces on our teeth to guide the growth and placement of what would otherwise be non-parallel placed mastication devices. And then there's the whole Pandora's box of plastic surgery...

    See what I mean? I know, I know, you're saying "but I want to tune my endorphin output using a heads-up display in my peripheral vision!" Hell, so do I. That's just hacking at the next level. We have been hacking our bodies for so long, most of us using the equivalent of rootkits, that we tend to forget that we are doing it. When articles like this talk about getting ready to hack your body they do so by keeping all of the daily hacks we all participate in below the base-line of what is currently possible.

    Humans will create something not because it is needed but instead because it is possible. Once these things are made and used widely then they are, in effect, just another part of the human body, or more accurately a module which can be elected for use or not. We are already hacking our bodies, just not at the desired level. This is good. For what good would a hack be that had no room for improvement at a later date? Boring, I say. So bring on the cybernetic implants, the gene therapy, the bio-computers peppered about my person and the nanites on the rampage within. Bring it on, and let the hacking continue!
  • I gave up caffiene for a while once. I started getting massive headaches, and I couldn't stay awake. I finally had to go back. That was the worst three minutes of my life.

    Excuse me, I have to go get another 12-pack of Jolt Cola.

  • As a fellow insulin dependent diabetic, I quite agree. BTW - look at stem cell research if you haven't already. Stem cells are like the body equivalent of FPGA's, only they take to dang long to differentiate.

    I'd definitely like to be able to produce insulin again, preferably in a better than human normal way.

    Screw pharmaceuticals though, for genetic engineering I want more neural tissue, better sex, hyper acute / adjustable senses, better bone structure, stronger, faster than before, etc...

    I do like Bruce Sterling's idea (from distraction) about being able to maintain multiple states of consciousness at the same time, but I'd want to be able to back out of it. (especially if you could get deadlock or race conditions - shudder.)

  • Hacking a body to make it perform better instead of optimally is a bad thing.
    You say the human body could syntetize caffeine itself but you could be much more friendly with your body by sleeping some time, even like Dali's flash sleep.
    Look at the "Tour de France": Most of its performers are taking loads of alien drugs and though they finish in the Tour's few first, finish completely stoned out of the competition.
    It is because of the current level of competition and because of the mediatic heavy fire that people feel likle beating more and more records not even because of the original sane thing that people call challenge or self-improvement but because they need recognition that people won't usually offer them if they just happen to be only cool.
    So, yes, of course, you could make your body synthetize coffee, drugs or even adamantium but it will still secrete shit on a dayly basis and you'll still have to do with this.
    What will be the next improvement ? Hermaphrodism ?
  • by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Friday September 01, 2000 @03:00AM (#813550) Homepage
    > I'm wondering just how pervasive the US
    > computer caffine cluture is internationally.

    Seen from Denmark the coffein obsession is an American phenomen. Everybody here drink some disgustingly strong tasting coffee in absurd quantities, and the idea of decaffenated anything (coffee, tea, cola) is meet with puzzlement. Why would anyone want that? The point being, most people here are coffein junkies, and don't know it or recognize it as a problem.

    Nerds are probably *less* coffein-addicted than the average population, simply because cola contains much less coffein than coffee.

  • The reason that drugs "work" in the human body is because the the molecular structure of the drug fits a natural "keyhole" somewhere.

    Basically the body has natural recepticle's for natural hormones... drugs fit those keyholes - often imperfectly. Your body thinks caffeine is adrenaline and acts (mostly) accordingly. Your body naturally produces adrenaline, and it works a hell of a lot better than caffeine.

    I like caffeine because I can get a rush while still being a computer slug, but I understand the difference. :)

    I suspect if we could turn on and off adrenaline like we drink coffee, the body would develop some resistance...

  • I do like Bruce Sterling's idea (from distraction)

    That book freaked me out. :-) And yes, I have looked a little bit at stem cell research. I also saw the article where somebody finally discovered the cause of Type I diabetes.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas