Questions: For Non-Scientific Research

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi All, I Am Looking for a bit of information, as you might note my name i am At the moment attempting to write a book, and am researching for said novel, although it is Sci-Fi/Fantasy in Genre.

I Have two seperate questions for the genetisists, (did i spell that right?)

My First Question is a little bit silly as it is taken from a video game, it is a theory expressed throughout the Assassin's Creed franchise and i am questioning whether or not it has any validity, it is called the theory of genetic memory on the game, and it says that not only are your genes used to give form, but asa basis for your learning ie. instincts, i hope i explained that right haven't played it for a little while.

My second question is about viruses or more specifically RNA and its effects on Animal and Plant DNA, i am not even sue a plant can catch a virusbut anyway, if i remember what they taught me in biology in school, RNA changes a cell and mutates DNA so that it can produce more of the RNA virus i think thats right, but anyway i am asking would it be pssible for RNA to affect DNA in a way that it mutates the cell but not to produce more of the virus or whatever it is but just that Genetic mutation on a massive scale in which the host is completely altered

Thanks very much for all your feedback i know this should have probably been psted elsewhere thanks for your time and all that jazz also.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Ygggdrasil
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My First Question is a little bit silly as it is taken from a video game, it is a theory expressed throughout the Assassin's Creed franchise and i am questioning whether or not it has any validity, it is called the theory of genetic memory on the game, and it says that not only are your genes used to give form, but asa basis for your learning ie. instincts, i hope i explained that right haven't played it for a little while.
In many animals, basic instincts and behaviors are encoded in the organism's DNA. The DNA provides instructions for the body to build specific genetic circuits to perform certain behaviors in response to certain stimuli. For example, flies have an escape response triggered by certain stimuli, such as a shadow passing over them. Researchers have identified a specific nerve cell in the fly that controls this response and this nerve cell is the same in all flies of the same species. Artificial stimulation of this nerve cell triggers the escape response.

In humans and other higher mammals, the situation is very different. Whereas most animals are born with innate behaviors and instincts, humans are born with almost no innate behaviors and instincts. For example, many animals (insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, etc.) are fully capable of walking, feeding themselves and even surviving independently after birth. In contrast, human babies can do practically nothing after birth. The difference is that the DNA of humans does not specify a wiring diagram for the nervous system. Rather this wiring diagram is formed on the fly on the basis of the experiences of the individual. For example, if you were to take a newly born baby and cover its eyes for its entire early childhood, the child's neural circuitry for interpreting visual stimuli would not develop and the child would be blind despite the fact that the child's eyes work perfectly well. Another consequence of this strategy is that everyone will develop different neural circuits to perform the same functions. For example, whereas the same nerve cell will trigger the same escape response in all flies, activating a specific nerve in humans would likely trigger very different responses in different individuals.

While this wiring-on-the-fly strategy has many disadvantages in the younger phases of life (babies and children are very much dependent on others for survival), this plasticity of the brain associated with the wiring strategy gives humans an unparalleled ability to learn. This is one reason why humans have learned how to do things like create a system of reading and writing while other organisms have not.

My second question is about viruses or more specifically RNA and its effects on Animal and Plant DNA, i am not even sue a plant can catch a virusbut anyway, if i remember what they taught me in biology in school, RNA changes a cell and mutates DNA so that it can produce more of the RNA virus i think thats right, but anyway i am asking would it be pssible for RNA to affect DNA in a way that it mutates the cell but not to produce more of the virus or whatever it is but just that Genetic mutation on a massive scale in which the host is completely altered
Plants can and do catch viruses. There are a number of different classes of RNA viruses, but I believe the class you may be interested in are the retroviruses (examples of retroviruses include HIV, herpes, and hepatitis C). These viruses carry their genetic information in the form of a single-stranded RNA molecule. In order to replicate, these viruses convert their RNA into DNA and then insert this DNA into the host cell's DNA. In this way, the virus replicates with the host cell and hijacks' the host cell's machinery to create more viruses. Researchers can engineer these retroviruses to, instead of inserting the virus' genetic material into the host's DNA, insert a foreign gene. The hope is that these engineered retroviruses could be used as tools for gene therapy to fix defective genes (although a lot more research needs to be done in order to ensure that this process can be done effectively and safely).

So, it is possible for viruses to induce mutations and insert genes into a host (this is how some viruses cause cancer).
 
  • #3
bobze
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In humans and other higher mammals, the situation is very different. Whereas most animals are born with innate behaviors and instincts, humans are born with almost no innate behaviors and instincts. For example, many animals (insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, etc.) are fully capable of walking, feeding themselves and even surviving independently after birth. In contrast, human babies can do practically nothing after birth. The difference is that the DNA of humans does not specify a wiring diagram for the nervous system. Rather this wiring diagram is formed on the fly on the basis of the experiences of the individual. For example, if you were to take a newly born baby and cover its eyes for its entire early childhood, the child's neural circuitry for interpreting visual stimuli would not develop and the child would be blind despite the fact that the child's eyes work perfectly well. Another consequence of this strategy is that everyone will develop different neural circuits to perform the same functions. For example, whereas the same nerve cell will trigger the same escape response in all flies, activating a specific nerve in humans would likely trigger very different responses in different individuals.

While this wiring-on-the-fly strategy has many disadvantages in the younger phases of life (babies and children are very much dependent on others for survival), this plasticity of the brain associated with the wiring strategy gives humans an unparalleled ability to learn. This is one reason why humans have learned how to do things like create a system of reading and writing while other organisms have not.
I agree with you here Yggg and this is well written as usual, but I just want to clarify for the budding author. Its not that humans have no instincts, its just that there are many more pronounced ones in other species. As a survival strategy we took an "environment first" approach and threw our chips in heavily with that. Okay then, it worked for us and it has worked for others (marsupials come to mind). But there are still reflexive and instinctual behaviors humans have acquired. Blow real hard in a baby's face sometime--Its almost as entertaining as doing it to your dog :)
 

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