If DNA is hardware of a cell, can the “software” in the cell be used to cause a genetic hardware malfunction in the essence of the DNA strings?  The Baylor College of Medicine has been working on identifying the power of “cellular software flaws” and their adverse effect on the body.

Sometimes, when a cell divides, DNA is miscopied, resulting in a defect that can be passed through the generations. That is a hardware defect.

“Most people think that errors in transcription (the copying of the information in a gene into a protein) are transient and cannot be inherited,” said Dr. Christophe Herman, assistant professor of molecular and human genetics at BCM. “What we show is that errors in transcription have a dramatic heritable consequence when they affect a specific gene network.”

In work with the bacteria Escherichia coli, Herman and his colleagues work with a particular phenomenon known as a bi-stable switch, which allows a dividing cell to go into one of two important directions. “It is important in differentiation,” said Herman. A network allows these cells to make their cell fate choice.

If miscopying in cellular replication can modify the “DNA hardware” and lead to unexpected ends — is there any power or magnificence — in encouraging these gene flaws to create a malicious end?

Can we waterboard without the board and without the water?

Can we one day, temporarily, change the renditional hardwiring of a person in real time to punish them with “inherited” shingles or sickle cell anemia or AIDS — and then “heal” them via a software cellular reversal “update” — once the interrogators convince the subject that cooperation is better for the long term propagation of a healthy gene pool?

5 Comments

  1. It is scary, Gordon, but that’s the process we need to pursue with these “technological announcements” that look good at first glance, but when we apply them to necessary human nature, the end event can be frightening!

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