MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: I want to know if you think it is possible to geaneticaly engenier Pokemon?

Date: Fri Sep 29 14:09:18 2000
Posted By: Greta Hardin, Secondary School Teacher, Science
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 964467599.Ge

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

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