MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: Can I be a scientific project contructing my DNA with animals.

Date: Mon Jul 21 12:30:47 2003
Posted By: Greta Hardin, Secondary School Teacher, Science
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 1051755912.Ge

Too many movies!

I know, I know - the movies, certain episodes of Batman and so on and so
on... make it look like all you have to do is take some person DNA, some
animal DNA, pop them together in a test tube, shake it up, inject them back
into a person.  Next thing you know the person is growing a dinosaur tail,
or cat whiskers and ears, or a forked lizard tongue.

I hate to tell you, but there is nothing you can do with DNA to make you
ready to join the X-Men, it just doesn't work that way.  Unless DNA is
present at the beginning of growing something, it cannot help shape the
whole animal (or person).  And since you are writing to Mad Sci, that means
you are already something of a formed up person.  So if we were to
combine your DNA with, say, a crocodile's DNA, it would only have a chance
of affecting the cells you actually injected the new DNA into - and even
then it probably would not work.  It is not like adding nuts to
cake dough, but rather like trying to change a hose by throwing boards and
nails at it.  Something might stick, but most of it will just fall to the

And DNA is funny stuff, hard to read, and picky about turning on and
working.  Even if you were able to find the bit of croc DNA that makes a
tail, and teeth, you would have to figure out how to make it go.  And if
you could make it go, how would you make it stop?  And you would also have
to figure out how to make sure the teeth part only worked in your
mouth, and not the tail part.  And - ah yes, the REAL BIG PROBLEM, even if
you got all these problems sorted out, all your own teeth would have to
fall out, and then you would have to WAIT for the new teeth to grow in, and
it would take YEARS and YEARS for anything like a tail you would want to grow.

So after all that, the short answer is, sure you could combine them - but
not much would happen.  There are so many problems to solve that haven't
even been started on yet.  Also, such a huge change, are you sure you would
want to live this way for the rest of your life?  A tail might be fun for a
little while, but would you still want it next summer?

I hope this has given you lots to think about.

Good Luck, Greta

P.S. One important thing for scientists is the ability to communicate well.
 So next time you ask a question, could you check it carefully before you
send it in to make sure it is easy to understand?  With this message, it
took me a long time to figure out what you were try to say.

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