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Biotech Medicine Science

New Advance Confines GMOs To the Lab Instead of Living In the Wild 130

BarbaraHudson (3785311) writes In Jurassic Park, scientists tweak dinosaur DNA so that the dinosaurs were lysine-deficient in order to keep them from spreading in the wild. Scientists have taken this one step further as a way to keep genetically modified E. coli from surviving outside the lab. In modifying the bacteria's DNA to thwart escape, two teams altered the genetic code to require amino acids not found in nature. One team modified the genes that coded for proteins crucial to cell functions so that that produced proteins required the presence of the synthetic amino acid in the protein itself. The other team focused on 22 genes deemed essential to a bacterial cell's functions and tied the genes' expression to the presence of synthetic amino acids. For the bacteria to survive, these synthetic amino acids had to be present in the medium on which the bacteria fed. In both cases, the number of escapees was so small as to be undetectable."
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New Advance Confines GMOs To the Lab Instead of Living In the Wild

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  • Jurassic Park (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this how they kept the dinosaurs from escaping in the first Jurassic Park book? And we all know how well that worked out... CHAOS THEORY!

    • The lysine contingency is intended to prevent the spread of the animals in case they ever get off the island. Dr. Wu inserted a gene that makes a single faulty enzyme in protein metabolism. The animals can't manufacture the amino acid lysine. Unless they're continually supplied with lysine by us, they'll slip into a coma and die.

      • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

        The lysine contingency is intended to prevent the spread of the animals in case they ever get off the island. Dr. Wu inserted a gene that makes a single faulty enzyme in protein metabolism. The animals can't manufacture the amino acid lysine. Unless they're continually supplied with lysine by us, they'll slip into a coma and die.

        "...This spring, in the Ismaloya section, which is to the north, some unknown animals ate the crops in a very peculiar manner. They moved each day, in a straight line-almost as straight as an arrow-from the coast, into the mountains, into the jungle."
        Grant sat upright.
        "Like a migration," Guitierrez said. "Wouldn't you say?"
        "What crops?" Grant said.
        "Well, it was odd. They would only eat agama beans and soy, and sometimes chickens."
        Grant said, "Foods rich in lysine..."

        • Yeah. GMO v2 has DRM...doesn't matter if you keep the seeds for next years crop, you still need to buy our "fertilizer" for it to work...and you'll still have to pay for the seeds again.

      • Unless they're continually supplied with lysine by us, they'll slip into a coma and die.

        Life finds a way... [giphy.com]

    • Re:Jurassic Park (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @06:16PM (#48879919)

      But Lysine IS found in nature. The extra security here is that they are dependant on something they cannot obtain because it is not found in nature.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        But Lysine IS found in nature. The extra security here is that they are dependant on something they cannot obtain because it is not found in nature.

        I think this is more akin to the fact they kept the dinosaurs all female to prevent breeding, the problem with biological organisms is that they mutate and change. The current iteration of E.Coli they have cant survive outside of the lab, but what about the next generation or the generation after that? Why is it not possible they wont simply mutate around this and drop the dependence on something that it cant find in nature or receives in abundance? As Ian Malcom said in Jurassic Park (shouldn't it really b

        • The ability to change sex wasn't something they evolved in the movie. It was something they either had all along, inherited from a common ancestor or got from the frog DNA that was used to fill in the gaps in their genome.

          Why wouldn't these E. Coli be expected to evolve independance from the artificial stuff? Because it takes generations to evolve something.. and.. there is no selection pressure to do so until it is already too late. They don't evolve because they die.

      • They could mutate to stop being dependent on it or mutate to produce it by themselves. It would not be the first time something like that happened.

    • by Fwipp ( 1473271 )

      The summary literally starts with "In Jurassic Park,"

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )
      Henry Wu: Well, because all the animals in Jurassic Park are female. We've engineered them that way.
      Dr. Ian Malcolm: But again, how do you know they're all female? Does somebody go out into the park and pull up the dinosaurs' skirts?
      Henry Wu: We control their chromosomes. It's really not that difficult. All vertebrate embryos are inherently female anyway, they just require an extra hormone given at the right developmental stage to make them male. We simply deny them that.
      Dr. Ellie Sattler: Deny them th
  • Until... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:27PM (#48878915)

    A mutation in the DNA undoes the genetic engineering and we've got a new strain of e. coli in the wild.

    • Re:Until... (Score:5, Funny)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:30PM (#48878947) Homepage

      A mutation in the DNA undoes the genetic engineering and we've got a new strain of e. coli in the wild.

      Heresy!! How dare you suggest the people who make GMOs haven't solved all these problems?

      In the absence of evidence this is risky, we have to conclude this is safe. Because that's how we've been doing it all along.

      Why do you hate progress so much?

      I, for one, welcome our new mutated GMO e. coli overlords.

      • Re:Until... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @05:03PM (#48879271)

        C'mon guys, read the thing. They modified a LOT of genes, to the point where even several mutations wouldn't make it viable. Statistics really is in our favor on this one.

        • Re:Until... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @05:11PM (#48879347) Homepage
          Righto -- statistics is in favor of evolution not happening. Gotcha.
          • Re:Until... (Score:4, Funny)

            by AaronLS ( 1804210 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @05:32PM (#48879529)

            He didn't say the statistics favored no evolution. You have the reading comprehension of a blind squirrel.

            • Well, with a few lucky mutations, he could get the reading comprehension of a sighted squirrel.
          • Evolution would not (realistically) happen because bacterial leaks would have too little time to undo all the changes and re-adapt to natural-only aminoacid environments, the adaptive pressure against synthetic aminoacids would go from zero in the lab to 100 in the wild immediately.
            The possibility would had to be taken account if there was a natural way to keep the bacteria in gradually decreasing concentrations of synthetic aminoacids, you would then give a chance for the reversion to take place slowly and

            • Evolution would not (realistically) happen because bacterial leaks would have too little time to undo all the changes and re-adapt to natural-only aminoacid environments, the adaptive pressure against synthetic aminoacids would go from zero in the lab to 100 in the wild immediately.
              The possibility would had to be taken account if there was a natural way to keep the bacteria in gradually decreasing concentrations of synthetic aminoacids, you would then give a chance for the reversion to take place slowly and over many generations.

              You're assuming the lab is perfectly clean and the modified bacteria and synthetic amino acids are perfectly contained.
              None of those things are true. They are all false.
              And such changes don't take place "slowly" in bacteria because bacteria churn through "many generations" rapidly.

          • by quenda ( 644621 )

            Righto -- statistics is in favor of evolution not happening. Gotcha.

            Yes, like statistics favour mice not evolving functional wings in the next few thousand years.

      • I, for one, welcome our new mutated GMO e. coli overlords.

        You gonna regret that shitty decision.

    • Re:Until... (Score:5, Funny)

      by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @05:07PM (#48879309)

      A mutation in the DNA undoes the genetic engineering and we've got a new strain of e. coli in the wild.

      No, that could never happen. Just like those Monsanto strains that can't pollinate other crops.

      As Jurassic Park taught us, we're perfectly safe as long as they didn't splice in any frog DNA.

      • No, that could never happen. Just like those Monsanto strains that can't pollinate other crops.

        Monsanto has never sold seeds designed not to cross pollinate. They developed seeds with that capability, but were pressured into not selling them [monsanto.com].

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't new strains of e. coli naturally occur fairly frequently?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What happens when the human body naturally evolves to depend on this amino acid itself? I guess if you keep eating such GMO's you'll be okay? Win-Win for the corporations again (and a few decades to late to try and contain their absolutely ridiculous public testing).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    God Kills Dinosaur
    Got Creates Man
    Man Kills God
    Man Creates Dinosaur
    Dinosaur Kills Man

    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      Turn in your geek card. It actually goes [youtube.com]...

      God creates Dinosaurs
      God destroys Dinosaurs
      God creates Man
      Man destroys God
      Man creates Dinosaurs.
      Dinosaurs eat Man, Woman inherits the Earth.
    • God Kills Dinosaur
      GoD Creates Man
      Man Kills God
      Man Creates Dinosaur
      Dinosaur Kills Man

      Dinosaur ascends to oneness with the universe.
      Universe creates man
      Man ascends to become God.
      Universe ends God escapes and creates new unending universe
      God creates immoral man.
      Man fucks up by eating forbidden fruit
      God saves man from stupidity but requires him to declare alligence
      Most men refuse.
      Those that refuse are killed in apocalypse of their own making.
      Those that swore allegiance escaped.
      Man rebuilds earth and eliminates the idiocy that caused the apocalypse.
      Man and God live forever. Dinosaur

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:32PM (#48878963)

    ``the number of escapees was so small as to be undetectable``.

    This doesn`t exactly sound encouraging. Even one escapee out of trillions of bacteria, through the wonder of exponential clonal replication, will result in escape. This method might buy a day or two. And I haven`t even mentioned natural selections proclivity to ruin even the most well thought out containment schemes. And that messing with the basic cell machinery will greatly reduce the viability (and economic productivity) of these bugs.

    • ``the number of escapees was so small as to be undetectable``.

      This doesn`t exactly sound encouraging.

      It means no one had died yet, as far as they know.

      • And, by induction it's perfectly safe until proven otherwise.

        Because Monsanto et al paid off the right people, so their stuff is presumed to be safe as a default.

    • by sirlark ( 1676276 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:51PM (#48879159)
      The whole idea is that the escapees won't survive long enough to reproduce, as being without their essential amino acids, their growth would be limited, and bacterial reproduction rates are tied to growth rates. Also, consider that as long as they're provided with the non-native amino acids, they're under no selective pressure to revert to the wild type. Yes, it's possible, but very very unlikely.
      • ... and as we know

        http://www.the-scientist.com/?... [the-scientist.com]

        doesn't ever happen.

        they better bathe every fucking thing in sterilizing UV going into and out of that negative pressure clean room.

      • Yes, it's possible, but very very unlikely.

        That means over a long enough time, it will happen.

        • Yes ... but over a long enough time (a shorter time probably) those same mutations might occur naturally. And if the mutations are not beneficial to the organism (as opposed to beneficial to humans), then they are very likely to lost again. Look, if they create an e. coli strain that produces something amazing, for instance, a viable crude oil substitute, but it also happens to be highly effective at out-competing wild type e. coli in the human gut as a side effect, and coincidently killing us because we've
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Life uhh finds a way uhh" - Jeff Goldblum

  • Lest we Forget.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bonzoli ( 932939 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:35PM (#48878989)
    http://news.firedoglake.com/20... [firedoglake.com]
    The provision protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks and has thus been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” by activists who oppose the biotech giant. President Barack Obama signed the spending bill, including the provision, into law on Tuesday
    Since the act’s passing, more than 250,000 people have signed a petition opposing the provision and a rally, consisting largely of farmers organized by the Food Democracy Now network, protested outside the White House Wednesday. Not only has anger been directed at the Monsanto Protection Act’s content, but the way in which the provision was passed through Congress without appropriate review by the Agricultural or Judiciary Committees. The biotech rider instead was introduced anonymously as the larger bill progressed — little wonder food activists are accusing lobbyists and Congress members of backroom dealings.
    • by Bonzoli ( 932939 )
      Amazing Modded to 0 right away with no response, very nice!!!
    • Except you're wrong. That was not protecting Monsanto, it was protecting farmers from having to destroy their crops (conditional on regulatory approval) in the event a lawsuit challenged the deregulation of an already planted crop, as happened in the case of glyphosate resistant sugar beets. Of course, the GMO denialists, for whom everything is about the Monsanto conspiracy, decided to give that a clever and misleading name, Monsanto Protection Act, because they know bugger about the agricultural issues i

    • Who remembers the Alar scare? When the news broke panicked mothers rushed to schools to pull apples out of their child's lunch. The FDA had pulled Alar's registration but allowed all remaining stocks on hand to be used. Unfortunately most orchards had already been sprayed and with the panic no one was buying. Many farmers lost their orchards.
  • i like dinosaurs .i wish they were real :)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It is unfortunate that the summary author needed to toss in the remark about Jurassic Park. It's not a meaningful comparison (and is, indeed, based on a technical mistake in the book), and it doesn't appear in the linked article. As the earlier comments suggest, it does generate interest based on the pop culture reference. It's sad to see that Slashdot and its contributors resort to that kind of cheap chicanery to grab eyeballs, just like all the other loud, integrity-free, "journalism" outlets that seem to
    • It's meaningful enough: it describes the problem being tackled by describing a familiar, similar problem. Study how memory and communication work.
      • You pretty much nailed my thinking. If I had wanted to go for "a clickbait" headline, I would have done something like "Jurassic Park coming to a lab near you" or "FrankenBacteria use amino acids never seen in living things." Instead, I went with "New Advance Confines GMOs To the Lab Instead of Living In the Wild" because that pretty much sums it up.

        I put the Jurassic Park reference at the beginning of the text because the technique in the article reminded me of the book and the movie. Immediately followi

        • Write an audiobook review for Moonwalking with Einstein.
        • it's also literally the most obvious comparison that springs to mind for anybody who has been alive for the past 20 years.

          i'm pretty sure the researchers working on this must have been thinking to themselves. please don't "find a way" please don't "find a way".

  • They said the same thing about the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

    Dr. Alan Grant: [finding egg shells] Oh my God. Do you know what this is? This is a dinosaur egg. The dinosaurs are breeding.
    Tim: But Grandpa said all the dinosaurs were girls.
    Dr. Alan Grant: Amphibian DNA.
    Lex: What's that?
    Dr. Alan Grant: Well, on the tour, the film said they used frog DNA to fill in the gene sequence gaps. They mutated the dinosaur genetic code and blended it with that of a frog's. Now, some West African frogs have been known to

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2015 @04:50PM (#48879141)

    So they are letting modified E.Coli out into the wild. And they can't detect it, and who honestly knows if some mutation is or is not going to allow the bacteria to still live and thrive.

  • Mutations (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How to they propose to prevent these lab E. coli from mutating the ability to survive in the wild?

    • If they escape, they won't have time. If they don't escape, there won't be any pressure on them to do so. And it sounds like they've crossed-wired things so any chance mutations that might remove the dependency will result in non-viability.

      Beats me why they don't just only use girl bacteria.

      • bacteria trade DNA all the time. and there's tons of redundancy. they pick it up just randomly, deposit it randomly, swap at the drop of a hat etc etc. we've got bacterial dna that just got swapped into us, somewhere down the line. it's like one giant gene swapping orgy.

      • If they escape, they won't have time. If they don't escape, there won't be any pressure on them to do so.

        When they escape, they'll have plenty of time as they'll be escaping along with chunkettes of their growth medium, containing the synthetic amino acids they need. As the bacteria grows the concentration of synthetic amino acids will decrease relative to population, creating the pressure to adapt to not need it. Further, no pressure is necessary for an effective change to come about - all specialization is random, and it sticks around if it is not detrimental.

  • by cjonslashdot ( 904508 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @05:01PM (#48879247)
    And now they can sell farmers the missing ingredient!
    • by halivar ( 535827 )

      Actually, this is GOOD. Farmers that don't buy the missing ingredient won't have to pay Monsanto for cross-pollinated crops. Their own harvests won't be contaminated by unlicensed GMO.

    • People will say GE crops are bad if they can cross pollinate, bad if they can survive in the wild, bad if they can't cross pollinate, and bad if they can't survive on their own. Yay double standards.

      • True. It is a difference of philosophy: those who trust science and corporations and those who don't.
        • I'd say its more like those who trust science and those who think science is a corporate conspiracy (see anti-vaxxers for reference). Just because a corporation uses something does not make that thing corporate in nature. Companies that sell GPS devices use relativity, but no one would ever bring up those companies in a physics discussion, unlike when the topic of genetic engineering and the related manufactroversy comes up.

          • Yes, agree. It is just that corporations try to use science for their own ends. Sometimes that aligns with what is good for the public, and sometimes it doesn't. If the drug companies could have their way, we all would be permanently addicted to expensive drug treatments - they are pretty close to achieving that already, and that is why they invest so little money in finding cures - they don't want cures: they want us to be dependent on them. The agribusiness industry wants the same thing. But of course, th
  • Quick history lesson (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Thursday January 22, 2015 @05:06PM (#48879301) Homepage Journal

    Way back in the 1970s, a scientist named Roy Curtiss engineered Chi-1776: a strain of E. Coli for precisely these purposes [google.com]. It was unable to synthesize d-amino pimelic acid, it couldn't exchange plasmids(*) with other bacteria, it was killed by detergents and UV radiation, and so on.

    It was subsequently discovered that the survival of Chi-1776 was greatly enhanced [google.com] when a plasmid commonly used for research was added.

    Chi-1776 was also found difficult to work with. The very safeguards that made it safe for experimental use also made it difficult to grow. In fermentors it was outcompeted by just about everything else in the environment, so absolutely sterile environments were required, and this turns out to be very difficult in practice.

    In response, researchers turned to a strain labelled K-12 which had a higher survival rate than Chi-1776, but couldn't infect the digestive tract and also couldn't survive in the wild.

    ...until it was found to infect mouse digestive tracts after the mice had been given certain antibiotics.

    Also, despite strict procedures in place for chemical or physical disinfection, K-12 was subsequently found in the sewer systems supporting the University of Texas [google.com].

    Those who cannot remember history are doomed to repeat it, or so they say. Does that statement apply to the current situation?

    (*) A plasmid [wikipedia.org] is a "loop" of DNA that is sometimes exchanged between bacteria. It's a method of propagating useful survival traits without going through the full reproductive cycle.

  • Uh... uh... Life.... Uh... Finds a way.
  • So what happens....

    It always escapes, adapts, finds alternatives, worse IT MUTATES, MATES, MORPHS with existing E. Coli, and slowly eradicates E. Coli.

    Oh that's great you say, NO IT'S NOT!!!! Believe it not you NEED E. Coli bacteria. There are numerous varietes, many are beneficial to the digestive track. Some are bad, but many facilitate digestion.

    • Are we this dumb? Yes, apparently we are. We haven't grasped the idea of just because we can do something doesn't mean that we have to do it.

    • by RichMan ( 8097 )

      I'm sorry you have been attacked by the terminator virus you will need daily pills to survive for the rest of your life. These pills are available at the low low cost of $10 each.

  • - blade runner reference

  • ...to make an alteration in the evolvement of an organic life system is fatal. A coding sequence cannot be revised once it's been established.

  • " ... the number of escapees was so small as to be undetectable." Until the undetectable escapees start multiplying and sudeenly they're detectable.
  • uh, uh, finds a way...

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