Horizontal Gene Transfer
#1
I'm a noob when it comes to biology, but the more I read about it, the more fascinated I become. The amount of wonder that is hidden in the process of life is colossal and is a far better alternative to the wonder promised by religion by way of unrealistic and absurd abstractions.

One such wonder I came across is Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT). Up until then, I thought the only way for an individual acquires new traits is from its parent(s) i.e. vertical gene transfer (VGT). But with HGT, an individual can acquire new traits by exchanging genetic material with another unrelated individual (of a different species). An individual can acquire new traits at a much faster rate through HGT than with VGT.

HGT is supposed to be the main cause behind bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics. And we mammals have supposedly got the capability to growing offspring within our bodies itself due to gene transfer from Endogenous Retro Viruses (ERV). Mind blowing stuff.

A couple of links on HGT:
http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Horizontal_gene_transfer
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogenous_retrovirus
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#2
I have a background in biology. In fact, I have performed horizontal gene transfer from bacteria (engineered to carry a particular gene) to mice (targeting a particular gene) before. It was a step in the experiments for my masters thesis.

Horizontal gene transfer also takes place in nature. In fact, our DNA is full of genes acquired from viruses, bacteria and other microbial life over millions of years.

In the near future gene therapy will become a very important aspect of medicine, transforming the entire discipline. The capacity that a segment of DNA has to splice within another and form a functioning strand of genetic information makes it possible to engineer custom cures for a vast many genetic disorders.

This technology also has vast implications for engineering other forms of life. Of course, there are serious ethical complications. We have already been doing this for a long time now, but we really don't know a lot about intricate ecological networks and how our deliberate actions could affect them.

Some of the most well-publicized of these experiments have involved fluorescent animals..

[Image: 400px-fluorescent_pigs_paint.jpg]
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#3
The recent announcement that synthetic life has been created by Craig Venter can be viewed as an extreme case of HGT technology.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/m...-life-form
"Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian"
~ J.B.S.Haldane, on being asked to falsify evolution.
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#4
It's a fine achievement of technical engineering.I'm not so worried about this. Monsanto already showed exceptional responsibility with their GM patents on 99.5% of the crops our food, clothes, textiles, and medicines come from. Let's take it to the next step.
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