Friday, May 9, 2014

Sci Fi Friday: Our God Complex Gone Wild: Man-Made DNA

Human beings seem hard-wired to tinker with the natural world in an attempt to mold it to our will. We domesticated animals. We hybridized plants. We mine the Earth and in the process tear down mountains and create a new terrain.

The genetic code may be the final frontier of man's exploration of, and manipulation of, the Earth's biology. It may also be the scariest frontier.

Whether you believe that an almighty, all-knowing god created us, or that human life is a beautiful accident of millions of years of evolution, the genetic code that makes it all possible is design perfection. Just four chemicals bond into two pairs that form the basis for all life on this planet. 

So why do we feel the need to tinker with it? Maybe the answer is this: because we can.

Geneticists have been dicing and splicing DNA for quite a while now. But the idea of creating artificial DNA? Many scientists said it could not be done.

But it has been done. On May 7, 2014, The Wall Street Journal ran a story with this headline: "Artificial DNA Breakthrough Could Lead to New Treatments." The report stated that, "Researchers for the first time created microbes containing artificial DNA, expanding the universal genetic code that guides life." The scientists created two additions to the normal genetic code and prompted bacteria to incorporate the new man-made DNA with "few ill effects."

The story contained this graphic:


Is it just my fiction-wired writer brain or does this technology scare anyone else? I mean GMOs are frightening enough and clones are creepy. But this is the kind of stuff that fuels a sci fi writer's wet dreams of freaky, dystopian, futuristic fiction. Imagine the implications for these bionic bacteria to find their way out of the lab and into the wider world. Or maybe the technology advances to the point that scientists tinker with human DNA and create a new species, one that is perhaps stronger, smarter and better than us in every way. 

Does this freak anyone else out? What implications do you see in this technology?