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Basic questions about genetics


Debborah
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Hello,

 

As an amateur, i'd like to ask a very few and basic questions about genetics :

 

1- Can the genes be altered through a human's life or are they immutable from the beginning till death ?

2- At what scale is it already possible to alter human genes ?

3- How Does altering human genes work, is it very simple or a long operation and how much time do the first results expected from gene manipulation start to show up ?

4- If the genes in a human being are replicated millions of times in every cell, how does one modify genes, does he modify only one piece of DNA or does he have to modify every piece of dna of the human body, or is there a part of the body that is the core dna which the body uses to replicate DNA and regenerate cells ?

5- When approximately will gene alteration for humans will be available and at what scale and at approximately what price ? Will it be affordable or cost millions of dollars at first, how fast will the market of gene modification will evolve and be popularized with a low-cost for the population, is it gonna be a 50 years term, or something like 15 years since the first commercialization ?

 

Sorry if some or all of these questions are stupid and may seem obvious, I'm no expert :)

 

Thanks immensely

 

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Just to start, this is typically done outside of a living organism.

 

1) Yes, DNA can be altered. Mutations and retrovirus replication are examples of this.

2) Rudimentary changes. Nothing too complex or widespread.

3) Depends on the vector and cellular replication rates.

 

4) Depends on what you want to achieve.

 

The only master blueprint is at the time when you are a single cell. From that point on each cell has its own copy. Not every cell actually replicates however. Some are never replaced. Some are replaced from a stem cell line(Red blood cells via Bone marrow for example).

 

5) Now and free if you want to be technical.

 

In terms of deliberate beneficial changes, think I've heard of real world medical retrovirus usage(Can't find the article with all the HIV antiretroviral literature out there). Offspring and professional sports are the other two areas that are likely to be served first.

 

Non-trivial or cosmetic changes are likely a long ways off.

Edited by Endy0816
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1- Can the genes be altered through a human's life or are they immutable from the beginning till death ?

Yes, genes naturally change throughout a humans life. That doesn't mean that your eye color will change... Also, get exposed to mass amounts of radiation, and see what your kids or grand kids look like.

 

2- At what scale is it already possible to alter human genes ?

This is a two sided question. We can alter human genes. But not while you are alive at this point in time. Like I said, you can't change your eye color. What you could do, is get a sperm, change it's genes(you can do that with an egg), and you could make it more likely that a baby about to be born has a certain eye color, or hair color. It's still a 50/50 chance, and it hasn't been perfected. This of course raises a lot of ethics questions...

 

3- How Does altering human genes work, is it very simple or a long operation and how much time do the first results expected from gene manipulation start to show up ?

I am not an expert, but I would assume it would take a long time. There is also things that altering genes can do, and the changes can be very rapid. What I am referring to is called cancer.

 

4- If the genes in a human being are replicated millions of times in every cell, how does one modify genes, does he modify only one piece of DNA or does he have to modify every piece of dna of the human body, or is there a part of the body that is the core dna which the body uses to replicate DNA and regenerate cells ?

See point one and two. We cannot change the genes once there is millions of them in the body. We can alter genes by altering the sperm or eggs data that it carries.

 

5- When approximately will gene alteration for humans will be available and at what scale and at approximately what price ? Will it be affordable or cost millions of dollars at first, how fast will the market of gene modification will evolve and be popularized with a low-cost for the population, is it gonna be a 50 years term, or something like 15 years since the first commercialization ?

I don't really think this practice will catch on, due to the ethics of it. I don't have any of the numbers, but I know it can be done at this time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Also, keep in mind that even if you could alter the DNA present in every cell of your body, there are some things this could do and some things it could not.

 

If you replaced all of your DNA with someone else's somehow, for example, you would not morph into their twin. Some things (perhaps hair?) may become more like theirs, but your height isn't going to change nor are your facial features going to rearrange themselves.

 

For some things, it would be like editing a blueprint after the house is already built: It's not going to change the house. For other things, though, it'd be like editing the product plans for an assembly line: you start spitting out new material.

 

So for on-going processes, you can alter how they function, which may improve things or make everything go haywire. For processes that have already finished, altering your DNA isn't going to go back and rewrite everything that has been done as if you'd had that DNA from the start.

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