MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: Transgenetics, can it be used to strengthen the immune systems of people?

Date: Mon Apr 23 06:41:02 2007
Posted By: Michel Ouellet, Projects leader
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 1176110379.Ge

Hi Shawn,

Normally, for mouse or drosophila genetics, homozygotes for a knock out or
knock in gene are obtained through backcrossing (mating the offspring with
the heterozygote parent).  Needless to say that such method would be
unthinkable in most human societies, for ethical and moral reasons.  

Even so, apart from these unavoidable considerations, the science behind
transgenetics could maybe, just maybe, modify one gene per one or two
generation of individuals.  The exact repercussions of the change in one
single gene would be unknown for a long time because the consequences of
the gene mixing in the population could only occur at the later generations.

The immune system, the senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch, almost
every basic functions of the body are controlled by more than one gene and
most often by more than 10 genes.  The diseases that are caused by a single
nucleotide polymorphism are, in fact, quite rare.  Most diseases are
multi-factorial, occuring due to the interaction of multiple environmental
factors and multiple genes.  Moreover, people that are sensitive to one
disease could be resistant for another.  Playing with biodiversity is, as
monoculture with plants has demonstrated, dangerous.  Our genetic pool has
evolved over millenias, slowly but adequately adapting to changes in our
environment such as new infectious diseases, warmer climate, etc.      

As for eugenics, transgenetics is a scientific possibility with some
mammals and insects but is very difficult to translate to humans because of
our life span, the requirements for the upbringing of our offspring, our
culture, the fact that you cannot "force" someone to mate with someone else
over multiple generations, etc.

Hope this helps!



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