|MadSci Network: Genetics|
Genetic Engineering This is actually a more complex field than it looks - at least on TV and in the movies. I think it would be best if I gave you a quick explanation of how DNA turns into organisms. You seem to understand the basic premise that DNA is the blueprint, the plans for an organism. But the way those plans turn into the organism is rather slow and complex. Each gene in an organism's DNA gives one single instruction, say make the protein that makes the outside layer of your hair, or makes the protein that is the enzyme that turns starch into sugar. Every gene is a tiny, tiny instruction. Further, instructions that work together to make, say, hair that is thin, brown and staight may not be all together. But wait there's more, genes have codes near them that tell them to turn on and turn off. Those codes need to go along with the gene you want to use, along with the chemicals that activate the codes to turn on and off the gene. And there are more steps.... But to wrap this up, there's alot more to gene splicing and genetic combination that meets the eye. It took me about two years of biology, chemistry and genetics classes to get a grasp on just what a huge number of steps genetic engineering requires. But back to your original question, the beginning of that answer is a whole bunch of questions: What characteristics of the mouse do you want? You would need to isolate those genes. What characteristics of the brabbit do you want? You would also need to isolate those genes. Further, are any of these desired genes conflicting... in other words, would having any of the desired genes conflict in a way that would make an animal that wouldn't work. And don't forget internal workings... would you want mouse digestion or rabbit digestion? And would you want mouse genes to show up in a rabbit or rabbit genes in a mouse? The act of combining characteristics of two fairly similar animals (they are both rodents) is tough enough. Bringing in genes from and entirely unrelated animal (your electric eel) is going to be unbelivably tough. First you would need to find the thousands of genes that create the electric ability in the eel. And then, how in the world would you figure out where to put them so they would be sure to produce the same products in the new animal as they did in the eel. Genes often don't do what you would expect them to do when they are in an alien environment, or at least they don't do it when you want them to. And on and on and on.... Genetic engineering is a fascinating and emerging field. And there are plenty of unanswered questions out there that need to be answered, so don't let yourself be overwhelmed by the huge number of questions I just posed. The industry is a long from making designer animals... and it may never want to get there. The ethical issues involved are a whole different kettle of fish. In other words, even if we could, would we want to make electric rodents? Think of what that would do to the food chain? Would the electic rodents get rid of all the other rodents, what would happen to the hawks, coyotes and other animals that depend on rodents for their survival... and so on. I hope I have not only answered your question... but given you more to think about. That's what you should really get out of this. And a final tip. Whatever field you go into - science or anything else.... correct spelling is very important. Good Luck, Greta Hardin
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Genetics.