Gene Expression Control : A major new technology .
7 Jul 2009
Tsien (of University.California.San.Diego) has altered phytochromes to emit infrared light .("Science" , May 2009)
This enables in-vivo tracking of biochemical processes , as well as controlled expression of genes .
See www.scientificamerican.com July 2009 , p15 " Deep into the red" .
Tsien , Chalfie and Shimomura won the 2008 Nobel prize for creating the green fluorescent proteins .
Tsien and his team has now created a phytochrome (and the synthesizing genes) that absorbs light and emits it in the deep infrared (near 700 nanometers) . The critical thing to note is that cell-tissue is nearly transparent to these wavelengths . The signal travels well . It can easily and clearly be monitored from other cells or even outside the body .
This alone is of great significance , since they can (and have) monitored various cell-processes in-vivo and deep inside other tissues (see photo of tagged cells in living liver inside the live owner .) .
But such a handy mechanism has already been pressed into use by evolutionary systems .
It has long been known that infrared signals play an important role in communication between cells , but the mechanisms were unclear .
Bacteriophytochromes gather light and convert it into energy for the signals to trigger the expression of genes .
Most of this light is in the infrared . Otherwise , there is some elaborate dendritic-like structures forming wave-guides between cells , especially in the immune system . (See some of my previous posts) .
There is quite a bit in the literature about infrared measured between cells , but the experimental procedures made greater exactitude impossible . Nothing could be done in-vivo . All specimens were of mangled organs squeezed between two plates .
We now have the capability to make phytochromes that can collect light of specified wavelenghts and emit the energy at specified wavelengths .
The emitted infrared wavelength can be at the wavelength that triggers a genetic switch . We can furthermore monitor the activity of the gene by further , different wavelengths from our designed phytochromes .
The Killer-App .
The real-time feedback means that this whole process can be automated .
The above process describes the decipherment of the Epigenetic system , which is more complicated than the genetic system .
But we can easily set up shot-gun approaches on living organs (livers seem to be very amenable) and simply permutate the hell out of it . The results can be assembled via real-time monitoring of the emitted infrared and assembled by computer . Very much like what Craig Venter did with the genome .
For those in a bigger hurry , real-time feedback using the existing evolutionary switches can be used .
(This might be preferable , in any case.)
I did not expect the epigenetic system to be cracked so quickly .
Some expected results :
1. Artificial wombs (epigenetic control outside of bodily nano-assemblers)
2. Arbitrary control of the phenotype expression , even after adulthood . This means optimization of any particular genotype .
3. Blurring of genotype and phenotype . This means practical longevity , designer humans , etc .
4. It also means massive problems with identity , memory , you name it .
"Who am I ?" will become an even more multi-dimensional problem .
5. Blurring of the memes , genes and phenes . (Phenes being the units of the epigenetic system)
6. Blurring of virtual and real . A Quantum World .
7. Fashion will become really important .
Why you need it :
While the latest tests are still inconclusive , there are strong indications that the latest bout of H1N1 flu (known as Swine-Flu or Mexican flu) has a pronounced decrease in human fertility in the survivors . This is to be expected from evolutionary arguments (see my previous posts – all of them . Complex feedback controls are a recurring theme .)
You can also see it from a detailed look at the population figures after every major flu-pandemic where reasonable records are available . (ie since 1918) . Trying to reconcile the approximate deathtoll with population figures afterwards assuming known fertility rates does not rhyme . The problem is that the fertility rate dropped precipitously , and ever steeper every time .
Pulses of decreased fertility , most prominent in the societies with the greatest connectivity .
Typical of an evolutionary population-control system .
For example , the deaths of the 1918 flu keep on being revised upwards .
Can we count corpses better after 90 years ?
The surviving population that reaches census age at every subsequent iteration (generation) is simply smaller , because of a drop in fertility rates . The effect does seem to be additive to some degree .
Sigh . Another artifact of unwarranted human assumptions .
A mastery of the epigenetic processes will be essential to human survival .
This latest drop in unaided human fertility promises to be quite dramatic .
This is happening as we speak .
The resulting sociological and economic systems will be fascinating .
Gaia does not want to kill you .
She just thinks that Gotham City is a bit too dour and needs a Joker .
And Kickaha is off in another universe .