Explanation and the future of gene technology referat

Explanation and the future of gene technology

Today we are able to influence and add information to the DNA Code. When the scientists will have decoded the whole DNA of an organism, it will perhaps be possible to configure or create this creature as we want it to be.

But what is DNA?

We can see the genes which consists of DNA in three ways:

1) Genes as structural units: DNA, the chemical basis of genes, can be modified, cleaved and legated etc. In this sense it is about as interesting as sugar, lipids and other constituents of the cell, - putting it bluntly, relatively boring, or at least, no more interesting than chemical substances in general. However, what is exciting is the fact that it can be reintroduced into living organisms. DNA, as such, has nothing to do with life. It is dead. It is as 'inert' as salt. It does not create life, but it can be integrated into life processes. Results like those I have described demand further investigation and research. Identification of the 2,500 genes required for eye formation, their functions and interactions is a tremendous challenge for generations of molecular biologists. Identification and elaboration of the chromosomal organisation of the 80 - 100,000 genes of the human genome, their functions, regulation in time and space will keep researchers busy for decades. And all the work, all the experimentation, is set to follow the very same scheme: manipulation and engineering, - for we live in the age of 'invasive biology'. At this point these reflections could easily deviate into ethical and moral concerns, but I trust these will be considered later. Suffice it to say here, this first level of reality could be called the 'technical instrumentalisation' of life.

2) Genes as informational units: Genes are carriers of information. From a given sequence of genes, the primary structure of proteins, its amino acid sequence, can be deduced. The flow of information from DNA to RNA to protein can be unequivocally predicted, but is by no means sufficient to draw any conclusion on function. Indeed, any undergraduate could derive the protein primary sequence from a given stretch of DNA, but the genome projects show beyond any doubt that the function of a protein cannot simply be read from its amino acid composition. We are thus left with the problem that either the molecular approach to life does not grasp the entirety of living beings or that there exists occult information in the gene besides that of the genetic code. We either embark on DNA mysticism or acknowledge the limitation of purely genetic explanations of life.

3) Genes as functional units: Let us presume that we have identified a gene and elucidated the function of its product. We have already seen in the example of the eye formation that the function alone is not sufficient to explain its 'meaning' or 'significance' for the organism itself. More importantly, most of us are familiar with the poorly understood situation in animal model systems, where human disease conditions are simulated. Often enough, transgenic animals with the correct genetic changes can be generated, but the expected traits are lacking. One of the most important examples is the retinoblastoma gene. It is essential for cell cycle regulation in man and in its mutated form results in the formation of eye tumours. Mice with the very same genetic change develop a number of abnormalities, but retinoblastomas have not been detected in a single animal. If the gene had first been discovered in mouse it would not have been called the retinoblastoma gene. The genetic condition is necessary, but is obviously not sufficient for the formation of the organismic, phenotypic characteristics.

But there are far more possibilities to use gene engineering:

The book “Jurrasic Park” shows one example how we can use gene engineering in it’s on one hand fascinating and on the other hand dangerous way.


Scientists develop a means of bringing dinosaurs to life using DNA taken from dino' blood, which has been preserved inside insects encased in amber. Whilst Hammond is showing off his dinosaur 'theme park' to a selected audience [a lawyer (Gerrano), mathematician (Malcolm), dino' expert (Grant), palaeobotanist (Sattler) and his grandchildren (Tim & Lex)],

What the company has built there, we gradually discover, is a theme park inhabited by living dinosaurs cloned from fossils. As the project's presiding madman, John Hammond, explains: the obstacles to making a profit on genetically engineered pharmaceuticals have proved insurmountable. 'Now, think how different it is when you're making entertainment. Nobody needs entertainment. That's not a matter for government intervention. If I charge $5,000 a day for my park, who is going to stop me?'

You fool, says Hammond's resident Cassandra, Ian Malcolm, who is described as 'one of the most famous of the new generation of mathematicians who were openly interested in 'how the real world works.' ' One can't clone hundreds of prehistoric dinosaurs, put them in an environment, and expect to control the results. Chaos theory tells us that a big complicated system like that defies understanding. 'There is a problem with that island,' Malcolm warns. 'It is an accident waiting to happen.'

And this accident happened when Nedry (computer expert) disables the security system so that he can make his escape with some stolen embryos. This enables all the dinosaurs to escape their enclosures.

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