Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Genetic Modification of a Live Organism Is it Possible?

  1. Aug 26, 2012 #1
    *** I know this is of questionable ethics, but I am asking a hypothetical ***

    If we had a human of adult age, let's say, age 20-30. Would it be possible to genetically modify all cells in the body and make the changes take effect in a realistic manner? If so what would be the limits and steps in such a process?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2012 #2
    Sure. It's called a carcinogen.
     
  4. Aug 26, 2012 #3

    atyy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    There are no known methods of doing this. All present methods, including deliberate exposure to carcinogens, modify only some cells.
     
  5. Aug 26, 2012 #4
    Don't viruses do something similar? I've only had the equivalent of 1 semester of college biology, so sorry if I ask any stupid questions.

    For example...if one were to use a genetically engineered virus to splice onto the dna, could one infect a majority of cells (80%+)?
     
  6. Aug 26, 2012 #5

    Ygggdrasil

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Many viruses are limited in the types of cells that they can infect, so it would be difficult to get the virus to infect a large proportion of our cells. Furthermore, our immune systems recognize and combat viruses, so one would have to worry about the immune system destroying the virus before it could infect a large number of our cells.
     
  7. Aug 26, 2012 #6
    Could you extract some cells and genetically engineer them for the specific purpose of changing the other cells? It would (theoretically) be immune to the immune system like cancer cells, but without the, well, cancer. The main thing I'm contemplating doing is when a certain gene/expression is triggered, add a protein production to the resultant occurrence.
     
  8. Aug 27, 2012 #7

    atyy

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Usually to do something useful, you don't have to affect all cells, but only a sub-population (which is already hard enough). I think you'd find it more interesting if you changed your question to modifying the DNA in certain cells for certain purposes. It's done quite often in experimental animals for various purposes. I don't know if any have made it into the clinic, but there are certainly trials going on.

    http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/medicine/genetherapy.shtml
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Gelsinger
     
  9. Aug 27, 2012 #8
    What I'm wanting to do is modify the mitosis process slightly. After the DNA splits, I want the two new cells to produce telomerase to reextend the telomeres to prevent DNA degradation. This would require the ability to affect all cells to not have any "aging" at all. Just an idea =P
     
  10. Aug 29, 2012 #9

    Ryan_m_b

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    That's a rather naive understanding of aging and the role of telomeres (unfortunately). Cellular senesence is not a synonym of biological aging and removing the former will not necessarily remove the latter nor do so without dire consequences. That's not to say that telomeres don't play a role in aging but they aren't the be all and end all and their full role in that process is far from clear. There are cells that use telomerase to reextend their telomeres, they are embryonic stemm cells and cancer cells.
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2012
  11. Aug 29, 2012 #10
    Which is, once again, why I am here. I, as I have stated, have taken 2 biology courses (Biology 1 and AP biology). Thank you for the clerification though!
     
  12. Aug 29, 2012 #11

    Ryan_m_b

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I didn't mean it as an insult, it's an idea I think most people have when they here of telomeres the first time! Unfortunately it wont work.
     
  13. Sep 17, 2012 #12
    I'm personally not well versed in biology as much as I would like to be but I was reading some articles on telomerase and the aspect of reversing premature aging in mice by reactivation of the telomerase. While that study and experiment is much different from smize's suggestion, isn't there some sort of possibility it might work?
    If it absolutely could not work, do you mind explaining as to why it couldn't?


    Here is the article about premature ageing and telomerase:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101128/full/news.2010.635.html
     
  14. Sep 18, 2012 #13

    Ryan_m_b

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Key word in that title: premature. This is a potential treatment for mice with a disease, moer of the cure wont necessarily lead to longevity. Also as is stated in this article telomerase is responsable for causing cancers so attempting to use it for longevity will have to find a way of getting round that (no small feat).
     
  15. Sep 18, 2012 #14
    how many cells do you think are in the human bod?
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Genetic Modification of a Live Organism Is it Possible?
Loading...