Recently, my young cousin asked me to help him with a school science project. Given the bioengineering topic of The Esau Emergence, he thought I might be able to help him with information about human DNA. I was happy to help out and in the course of answering some of his questions, I discovered some interesting new ideas that may go into the third book! River’s questions were so interesting that I wanted to share the brilliance of a young creative mind.

 

Hi River!

This is one of my favorite topics. I didn’t know very much about it until I had the idea for the book….I was trying to get my character to “chimera” status in a very valid scientific way.

1) I know you wrote a book about this. They’ve mixed a mouse and a cow in England. How far have they gotten with this kind of technology that you know of?

Actually there are several examples of human DNA being inserted into test animals. They have used human brain cells in mice to test treatments for down syndrome and people with strokes. http://www.ibtimes.com/so-we-already-mix-human-animal-dna-uk-urges-oversight-301175

Humans and apes are separated by only 5% of their DNA….cows, surprisingly, are also close to humans in their DNA structure. Most of the experiments are designed with the hope of finding a way to create stem cells (very important in finding cures for several diseases) without using human embryos….and it’s mostly inserting human DNA into animals. http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2008/07/next-big-stem-cell-fight-mixing-cow-and-human-dna

 

5) What would happen if you mixed a human with a fish?

Mammals compared to Fish…..same as in the answer to insects…..too different. Though I always did like Aquaman…I know he’s a little lame.

 

6) How ’bout a shark? There have been several attempts to use shark cartilage to cure cancer, but it hasn’t been successful. There are some folks experimenting with shark DNA because sharks don’t get sick….no viruses or bacterial infections…..I don’t know much about that research.

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/09/110919-sharks-drugs-medicine-viruses-science-health-squalamine/

7) Have there been any crazy mistakes when someone tried to do something like this?

I kind of skipped the questions, except about the shark, because most science is focused on combining the DNA of animals and inserting human DNA into animals for medical reasons.

 

A couple of the articles talk about the experiments in doing this….no one is really working on the kind of experiment that you’re thinking of and that I wrote about in my book. There are animals called Chimeras that are genetically engineered or even bred to blend the different characteristics of animals….most Chimeras are unable to have offspring, but mouse chimeras give birth and pass some of their blended DNA to the babies. Interesting…isn’t it? Some animals are bred together…like a Liger (combination of lion and tiger) but many times those animals are ill and have health problems.

Scientists have used pigs (funny, they are very close to humans) to grow organs for transplant using human DNA.

 

8) How about insects? Have they ever mixed insects with humans?

This would be difficult because of the difference in ….insects aren’t mammals and humans are. It would be difficult to do because of the drastic change in DNA, even though at some level all life on the planet shares some components.

 

http://utahscience.oremjr.alpine.k12.ut.us/sciber99/7th/classify/sciber/7levels.htm

Can you please answer these back and let me what I can tell people about you in my report. Also, do you have any recommendations on what I should put on my project, or what else I can read?

You’re welcome to use any of my answers. I’m adding several radio stories that got my brain going on the whole idea of swapping DNA.

 

http://www.radiolab.org/story/91596-so-called-life/

 

http://www.radiolab.org/story/91597-mix-and-match/

 

http://www.radiolab.org/story/91793-easter-chimera/

 

I hope this was helpful….the bottomline is that most DNA research is about trying to find ways to test for cures to diseases and as a way to grow or replace organs or bone marrow for humans. There’s a big push to clone….that’s what my next book is about, but a lot of people don’t like the idea of any of this because they think humans aren’t animals….we are. I think it’s crazy interesting and I can’t wait to see what is going to happen in the future.

 

Love

Cousin Julia