Remember Jurassic Park? Ian Malcolm expresses the same surprise when he comes to know that John Hammond tells him how they took DNA of a dinosaur from mosquitoes preserved in amber since the Jurassic period. Ian says how could John be sure there are no unintended consequences. John’s response is that they ensured total control over the situation because they altered the chromosomes to produce only females. But to fill the gaps in the DNA they use fragments from frog DNA. Frogs are known to change sex when situation requires. This is the unintended consequence. Later they discover that the dinosaurs left alone, have been able to change sex, make eggs and babies. The dinosaurs are also bred to be lysine deficient requiring lysine supplement to be given. The theory is if the experiment goes wrong then they will be able to either stop the supply of lysine or use the supplement to kill off the rogue dinosaurs effectively having a big red switch to turn off the experiment. However, the dinosaurs also end up finding a natural source of lysine on the island. Henry Wu asks “do you mean to say a group of dinosaurs entirely composed of females will <pause> bread?” Ian replies “No, I am simply saying that life, uh <pause> finds a way.”
Is it possible that one day Jurassic park scenario can play in real life. I hope it does not. But a far more deadly killer is lurking among us. It’s the leading killer humans. It’s the same little mosquito. Mosquitoes carry various disease causing parasites and viruses like Malaria, Dengue fever, Chikungunya guinea etc.
Malaysia has released 6,000 genetically modified mosquitoes designed to combat dengue fever, in a landmark trial slammed Wednesday by environmentalists who say the experiment is unsafe. Dengue fever is a particularly nasty bug found in tropical and subtropical climes like Malaysia’s, causing nausea, muscle and joint pain, fever, headaches, rashes, and sometimes death if left untreated (in Malaysia it killed 134 people last year). The experimental mosquitoes, all male, were engineered to produce offspring that quickly die in hopes that shortening life spans will thin the population of Aedes species (dengue fever is carried by females).The experiment was conducted less to see if the GM mosquitoes’ offspring would die off earlier and more to see how the 6,000 mosquitoes themselves would fare in the wild. That also happens to be the sticking point for environmental groups and locals who are incensed that the Malaysian government went ahead with the experiment over their protests.
So far, the mosquitoes have been able to mingle with their cousins without having any significant or noticeable genetic effects. However, it’s too early. This is what’s causing a lot of the environmentalists to be upset about. However, Malaysian government ignored all the protests and released them. I am not sure why they could not do this experiment in the lab.
We should not be afraid of the consequences. However, the experimenters should have the environment as controlled as possible.
This type of genetic modification has been done by humans in the past with some what disastrous consequences.
The Cane toad brought from Hawaii to Australia to kill of beetles that were threatening cane crops were successful in combating but had a severe environmental effect on the biodiversity.
African honey bee which is known for the high quality of the honey it produces was introduced in South America, combined with local population to produce killer bees which are more aggressive. Now the killer bee swarms are moving steadily northwards and are threatening humans.
Scientists, however sincere they might be, need to be careful about the experiments they conduct and remember not to be too eager to prove the idea being pursued. In that eagerness they might be creating something that may cause a heck of a lot more harm than good.
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