We note the inexorable advance of genetics and humor notwithstanding, we point out that inherent dangers lurk as adventures in splicing move further and further afield. At the risk of offending our otherwise sophisticated readers, we would point out that many unintended consequences have accompanied great scientific advances. History should give us reason for caution in what is allowed, but as we contemplate controls on research we are immediately confronted by the continual need for scientific investigative freedom. Many an uncertain bunny trail has ended at a marvelous location. Pasteur's discovery of penicillin, Constantin Fahlberg and saccharine, Jamie Link and smart dust, DuPont chemist Roy Plunkett and Teflon - we could obviously go on and on.
To extend this thread, we dare not forget Dr. Gerhard Schrader's IG Farben insecticide research team and the discovery of nerve gas, Alfred Nobel invention of the Nobel patent detonator (later applied to military explosives), and Townes, Basov and Prokhorov with the fundamental work leading to the laser (now used to heal eyes, and guide precision bombs to their targets). Are we to imagine that as a scientific investigator embraces the scientific method, human frailty (greed, pride, immorality) are somehow shed during the ascent? Surely we are not so naive. Scientists are not demonstrated by experience to be any more honest than the general population. These ruminations having been shared, we have rummaged around the world and come up with a panoply of interesting genetic updates. We present this as non genetically modified food for thought.
from National Geographic: "Our hope was that by embedding spider-silk protein [gene] sequences within silkworm silk [gene] sequences, we could get those proteins to co-assemble ... into composite fibers, and that is what happened," said study co-author Don Jarvis, a molecular biologist at the University of Wyomingin Laramie.
from io9: Fusion genes are created when a chromosomal mutation causes two otherwise healthy genes to join together. For many years, it was believed that fusion genes were implicated only in blood and bone marrow cancers like leukemia, but a recent study by researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that the MYB-NFIB fusion gene was found in 100% of adenoid cystic carcinomas — a glandular cancer usually fond in the head, neck, and breasts.
from Machines Like Us: The resource, known as the Collaborative Cross (CC), is a reference manual of genetic variation contained in hundreds of specially-bred mice and their genetic sequences. The CC mice have much more genetic variation than normal lab mice, and thus more closely mirror the genetic complexity found in humans.
from Medical Press: Mice genetically engineered to be susceptible to autism-like behaviors that were exposed to a common flame retardant were less fertile and their offspring were smaller, less sociable and demonstrated marked deficits in learning and long-term memory when compared with the offspring of normal unexposed mice, a study by researchers at UC Davis has found.
from DNALC: And then there were a series of "what-ifs" if you will, people imagined of how this could be dangerous. Could you put a toxin gene clostridium botulinum toxin gene into E. coli, then you might have an E. coli that's producing a dangerous toxin and that would certainly be undesirable.
from Everything2:One question has to do with the use of human genes.
Many fruits, vegetables, and animals are being grown with some human genes, such as peppers. If you were to eat these peppers, would it be considered that you are simply eating a vegetable? Is this breaking the commitment that most vegetarians have made? Can one go so far as to conclude that we are being cannibalistic by eating the peppers? If not, how many human genes are required before the xenograph can be considered a human and given the rights that are natural to all humans? This is one question that will soon have to be answered before genetics can proceed, and before we are to determine if taking nature and altering it is acceptable.
from ehow: One of the primary concerns over the use of recombinant DNA in food is that the long-term effects on human health are still unknown. In fact, a number of scientists have voiced their concerns about the potential health risks of this technology. According to British professor Mae Wan-Ho, bypassing conventional breeding with "artificially constructed parasitic elements [such as] viruses" may present hazards, since inserting foreign genes into a host genome has "been known to have many harmful and fatal effects, including cancer."
Perhaps our greatest dangers lie not in what we know, but is what we do not know as we plunge, often blindly, ahead.