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Oldcougar  (Level: 229.6 - Posts: 1935)
Sun, 25th Jan '09 8:40 PM


This came out of an e-mail I get from HSI - Jenny Thompson

Gone jellyfishin'

"Did you know you can order jellyfish DNA by mail? Sure. It's a bargain at less than $100. And why would you want jellyfish DNA? Why, to make your homemade genetic engineering projects glow, of course!

According to a recent Associated Press report, 31-year-old San Franciscan computer programmer Meredith Patterson purchased jellyfish DNA to work on a little project she's got going on at home. She hopes to genetically alter yogurt bacteria that will glow green when exposed to melamine – the industrial chemical that prompted deaths in China when it was added to milk.

On one hand, I'd be very happy if my bowl of yogurt could somehow inform me that melamine is present. And if it could also tip me off to the presence of bovine growth hormones and antibiotics, even better! But I can't say I'm comfortable knowing that Meredith is tinkering with do-it-yourself genetic engineering in her dining room "laboratory."

Of course, Meredith isn't the problem. The potential problem is that there are apparently many Merediths – part-time science buffs who do a little reading, get some advice from online forums, send away for a batch of DNA, and then dive in to the wildly unpredictable world of homegrown genetic engineering.

Just for fun, I thought I'd look into purchasing jellyfish DNA to see how easy it might be. I figured a quick Google search would quickly reveal a DNA wholesaler, but instead, I found multiple references of jellyfish DNA inserted into monkey embryos, pig embryos, albino rabbits, bacteria, etc.

I can't imagine what all these experiments will lead to, but apparently they'll have a beautiful jellyfish glow.

Remember Jurassic Park? The scientist played by Jeff Goldblum predicts, "Life will find a way." His point: Whipping up a here-and-now T. Rex out of dinosaur DNA just might come back to bite you with a couple hundred razor-sharp teeth.

I doubt Meredith and her fellow amateur scientists will produce a rampaging, man-eating reptile, but they just might create something far smaller that could do much more harm.

For instance, the AP article looks at a Massachusetts community lab called DIYbio (that is: Do It Yourself biology) where grassroots scientists can share equipment. One of the lab's cofounders notes that amateurs might actually pursue serious work, such as new vaccines.

To some, that example might seem comforting. Make a vaccine to curb a disease? Wonderful! But to get from the idea of a vaccine to a workable vaccine, you'll have to experiment with living viruses or bacteria in living creatures. And how controlled is that going to be in a community lab? You can just imagine this post-it stuck on a coffee machine: "Whoever fed my bubonic rats might want to see a doctor, like, immediately."

In a previous e-Alert about genetic modification, HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., offered this insight: "Whistle-blowers in the GM industry all say the same thing: One genetic modification ALWAYS causes more than just the desired change (and that's if you only modify one thing!)."

And that's what's most frightening: Life doesn't just find a way – it finds all kinds of ways."

Scares the bejesus out of me, how about you

Kaufman  (Level: 269.9 - Posts: 3941)
Sun, 25th Jan '09 9:05 PM

I'm sorry, I'm just getting the giggles over "Coelentric Park".

Rowlanda  (Level: 70.0 - Posts: 2853)
Sun, 25th Jan '09 10:05 PM

OMG, Randy....
If you find yourself living next to someone called Dr.Jekyll
or an enormous, muscular Green'll know
someone is messing with more than BC Bud in their basement....

Tuzilla  (Level: 146.5 - Posts: 3845)
Sun, 25th Jan '09 10:13 PM

Question. Have you heard about melamine? It's that stuff in the tainted milk products coming from China. How do you suppose they test for it? One way is a bacteria modified with jellyfish DNA. It glows green when melamine is present.

Rowlanda  (Level: 70.0 - Posts: 2853)
Sun, 25th Jan '09 10:34 PM

At least the Chinese know how to treat criminals of
that type of mindless, uncaring Profiteers. .
No wasted prison expenses and endless Trial costs.
Think of all those thousands of poor children who will
spend their whole lives on dialysis....

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