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Biotech United Kingdom Science

Scientists Modify Organism With Artificial Amino Acid 149

IndigoDarkwolf writes "The Beeb reports that biologists Sebastian Greiss and Jason Chin have genetically modified a multicellular organism (Caenorhabditis elegans, a tiny worm) to combine an amino acid not found in nature into a custom-built protein. The protein created by their genetically-modified worm contained a dye which glows when exposed to UV light. While previous work showed that genetic modification could incorporate non-natural amino acids into custom proteins for single-celled organisms, this is the first time an entire animal has been modified."
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Scientists Modify Organism With Artificial Amino Acid

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  • by WillDraven ( 760005 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @09:31PM (#37064546) Homepage

    Boo fucking Hoo. Some people might possibly have health problems we can't foresee in ten years is your reasoning to stop the advancement of biology and nutrition science? I am so sick of the whole "we can't do anything that might possibly be dangerous" attitude. Shit Happens. People Die. Live with it (or don't, if you're one of the unlucky few). If you want to live in an absolutely safe environment your local mental institution has a nice padded cell for you. Out here in the real world us human beings have to take risks to get anywhere in life.

  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Thursday August 11, 2011 @10:31PM (#37064774) Homepage Journal

    Yes, it's a dilemma.

    On the one hand, GM foods might pose a risk somewhere in the future, but lots of really smart people have been trying to quantify and identify what these risks might be, to no effect.

    On the other hand, people are starving *now*. I'm all for safety, but can we eat first?

    People are scared because in the past we've made mistakes. For example, DDT accumulates, and causes problems higher up in the food chain. On the other hand, DDT was not fatal, it was not an extinction-level event, we noticed the risks and stopped.

    It's the future, we've learned a great deal, and we're being more careful. It's much less *likely* that we'll be making these types of mistakes overall. Mistakes will still be made, but that's inevitable whatever we do. When it happens, we'll identify the causes, change the conditions and move on.

    I'm willing to allow the possibility that a percentage of the world's poor will have some as-yet-undiscovered problem (which may be an inconvenience or may be life-threatening) in exchange for reducing the immediate suffering of massive populations of people *now*.

    It's a typical risk/reward tradeoff, something we make every day, such as driving a car. Take the path where the benefits outweigh the risks.

  • by WillDraven ( 760005 ) on Friday August 12, 2011 @06:55AM (#37066598) Homepage

    I'm not saying we shouldn't try to avoid it. By all means run the models and animal trials and don't approve anything for human trials that looks like it could kill tons of people. All I'm saying is if the science of today says it's safe, we should give it a chance. Especially if it's the sort of thing that's going to SAVE millions from starvation, but even if it's not! Accidents work both ways you know. Those guys goofing off making glowing pets might be the ones to stumble on a cure for those cancers you seem to be so worried about. You can't shut down a whole line of research just because your gut tells you it could be dangerous.

    We should be encouraging creative thinking and new areas of development. We should also be encouraging basic rigor and safety protocols, of course, punishing those who act irresponsibly. But we can't punish those who honestly tried to safely make the world a better, more interesting, more awesome place, and ran into some unforeseeable consequences.

    Imagine if Fleming had developed penicillin, started the antibiotic revolution saving countless lives, and then we discovered 20 years later that it caused anyone who had taken it to drop dead suddenly years down the line. Should we have lynched him for giving those people who probably would have died of infection 20 more years of happy healthy life? When the science of the day had NO WAY of knowing that would happen?

      Should we test every new drug and GMO food by giving it to a small sample of people and locking them in a bubble for the rest of their natural life to control the experiment and make sure nothing bad happens to them, just on the off chance it could kill millions even though there is no known mechanism for it to do that? Even when NOT releasing it means millions of people will definitely die from starvation or disease?

    My point is, sometimes, shit happens. Yes we should try to avoid it where possible, but not to the extent that we never learn anything new, such as WHY shit happens and how to prevent it.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982