What would happen if you injected dinosaur DNA?
What would happen if I tried to inject myself with dinosaur DNA or RNA? How would my cells and/or DNA pair with a dinosaur's?
Johnny sent this question via the webform. Geneticist Hannah Thompson tried to reign in his mad scientist tendencies by answering...
Hannah - Mm. Probably not. So we kind of talked a little bit about plasmids earlier; so that's one way you can get dinosaur DNA into a cell. It would have to be with CRISPR and Cas-9 to help it chop up your human genome and insert it in. But actually it's really unlikely that that would be inserted into a place where it would function, or do anything useful. And it's usually... the body's really, really good at preventing that kind of stuff from happening. So it'd probably just be degraded actually. Like, for example, we're covered in bacteria and we're not turning into bacteria.
Chris - That's a very good point. But I think one thing maybe we could raise here is that the genetic code is universal, isn't it? So the genetic code that runs in, say, a jellyfish, also works in a human. So if I took a jellyfish gene and put that into a human, a human cell would understand that genetic message and make the jellyfish gene. People have made glowing green mice, for example, doing that, haven't they? So is it not theoretically possible that given jellyfish predate dinosaurs in evolutionary terms, dinosaur genes - if we could get them - you could insert them into a human cell, it would understand them, but whether it would make anything useful, that's a different question.
Hannah - As such, you could sort of read the book, but you might not be able to interpret it.
Chris - So you're not going to become a T-Rex tomorrow. Which is kind of reassuring. Although I do know a few dinosaurs academically already; most of us who work in academia do.