My Genes Made Me Do It: The Future is Now

As a species do we face an evolutionary dead end?.

This is the last blog posting about the Coursera sessions:  Genes and the Human Condition - (University of Maryland) . The first blog post dealt with some of the fundamental concepts and progressed through to the state-of-the-art technologies. This blog  highlights some of the genetic advances already made and their implications for society. Below is a  laundry list of the topics covered:

  • synthetic biology —> the concept
  • 1st transgenic example — human insulin from E. coli
  • ‘Pharming’ - using crops or animals for producing vaccines or drugs
  • aquaculture - AquaAdvantage salmon
  • golden rice - vitamin A and iron
  • BioBricks - standardised genetic components that can be linked together into new combinations
  • Craig Venter and Synthia — synthetic life
  • BioHackers - weekend workshops
  • gene therapy - replacing faulty genes with functional genes
  • CRISPR technology
  • germline therapy — benefits and the risks

A mash up of the lectures for this session --  Professor St. Leger

In the closing remarks of this course, there was a plea for the public to become more informed about biotechnology and genetics. Otherwise the fears of the new developments such as synthetic biology will block the benefits of such research for our future. We have eliminated the selection pressure on the many mutations that have accumulated in our genomes and will continue to do so. We face an evolutionary dead end if we fail to address the genetic consequences of no selection.