Could you mix human and animal genes?

26 July 2015

Question

I recently saw a movie called "Splice" a Canadian-French science fiction-horror film directed by Vincenzo Natali and starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley, who portray a young scientist couple, choosing to introduce human DNA into their work of splicing animal genes. The two scientists secretly create a human female who has a whole lot of animal instincts and super type abilities as well as certain animal features. I found this film to be extremely disturbing but wanted to find out if something like this "playing God" so to speak would be scientifically possible?

Answer

We put this question to Kat Arney.

Kat - Technically, it's completely possible because DNA is just DNA. It doesn't matter where it's come from. In the lab, you can put jellyfish genes into mice, you can put human genes into bacteria, you can put worm genes into yeast. It's all DNA. It's all the same kind of nuts and bolts. If you put a gene in that's kind of got the right bits and bobs, it will be expressed. That means it will be active and it will make a protein because that's what genes do. They make little recipes that cells use to make different proteins. Now, that's what genes do. The difficulty comes when you say, if you put certain genes into different species, would it give that species some new power? So for example say, if you put an olfactory receptor, something involved in smelling from a dog into a human, would a human be able to suddenly smell all these different things? The answer is probably no because one gene doesn't just give a big characteristic like that. So, one gene is not responsible for super accurate sight or the smelling ability of dogs, or the hearing ability of foxes or something like that.

Chris - It can make a person glow with a glowing green jellyfish gene, couldn't you? That would be good.

Kat - That's the thing. So, you could do one thing that would be down to one particular protein or a couple of proteins. So, you could put in something that made someone glow under UV light, this green fluorescent protein from jellyfish, which would be so cool in a night clubs. Just like "hands in the air! My hands are green." For example, they do that already with the genes that make proteins involved in spider silk. You can actually make goats that produce the spider silk proteins. So, I think if you're talking about a whole system, a smelling system, an olfactory system, jumping system, that's going to be very, very difficult to engineer. It's the same thing with these new genome engineering technologies. We're hearing about things like CRISPR which has been in the news a lot. You can tweak certain genes and that can affect specific proteins or specific pathways in a cell, but to engineer an entire system is going to be, I think very difficult if not, impossible.

Chris - But given an ideal world then Ginny, what would you have in your organism? What super ability would you clone in?

Ginny - I think some of the kind of animal's super senses would be really cool, so to be able to echolocate or see infrared so that you could see kind of heat signatures and things. I think that would be pretty awesome. It would stop you bumping into things when you got up to go into the loo in the night.

Chris - Yeah. The visual one is a good one I'd say because that's relatively easy to do because that goes along with Kat's point that you can only really do this for one thing that one gene could do. So, you could add a gene into your retina that gave you a colour pigment that was capable of seeing other things that we can't currently see. So, you could do this for infrared or possibly other colours that you can't currently see and you could extend the spectrum of things you could see. Even UV, you could see UV like bumblebees do. That would be quite good.

Ginny - That would be great. What about navigation like the way birds use magnetic signals from the earth to navigate? That will be so useful. I'm always getting lost.

Chris - Well, researchers have actually found out recently how they do that. There's a paper that just come out in the journal eLife where researchers have found using worms actually that the worms are sensitive to the earth's magnetic field. They did a very simple experiment. They injected the worms into some jelly in a tube which was vertical. So, the worms go in one direction when they're hungry and they go in the other direction when they're well-fed. What they did was to then get some worms from Australia which having studied worms from Bristol in the UK and of course in Australia, the earth's magnetic field is pointing in the opposite direction. When they repeated the experiment, the worms do the opposite behaviour. They're going the opposite direction. So then they set up a system where they could reverse the magnetic field of the earth for the worms by just creating an artificial magnetic field and they could flip around what the worms did. They then looked in the worms and found these, they're special neurons, nerve cells inside the worms which appear to do this job. When you look at them, they're a really weird shape because one end of the nerve cell has got this strange, rod-like appendage on it that looks just like an antenna that you would put above your house to pick up TV pictures, and it's oriented along the length of the worm, and they think, well, perhaps with a bit of iron in there to make it wiggle with the earth's magnetic field it could be how the worms are doing the detection because they're clearly sensitive to magnetism. So, they really do have their own in-built compass. So Ewen, what would you clone in?

Ewen - One thing that really appealed to me is regeneration of digits. So, if you broke an arm or you broke it right off, you could just cut it off and let a new one grow back on again. Chris - Because there are animals that do that. Aren't there, Kat? They're very good at regeneration.

Kat - Yeah, things like flatworms, salamanders, all those kind of things. There's a lot of interest in trying to switch those genes back on because obviously, you start life as a baby growing in the womb. You have to be able to grow all these stuff. But for some reason, a lot of animals lose that ability. So, there is a lot of interest in being able to reactivate those developmental pathways.

Comments

Okay, so the article was really neat. Other people. You're already made entirely any sunbird changes would be very minor. The next generation may are change but more likely then not it would either never happen or in 20 generations or so given that the gene was a primary trait might Express itself.

In the womb, as a fetus is entirely different. There could be catastrophic results or there could be nothing.

As far as dinosaurs, that is already being worked on. There have been successful clones of mammoths.

But cloning and Gene manipulation are on separate fields. They're similar but separate.

And no to the Spiderman wall climbing stuff. Think about it this way. Even if you could grow won't for instance from bird DNA. What would be the point? You wouldn't be able to use them. Not without a way to manipulate the density and weight of your bones and body.

Think strength, if you could lift a car. Cool, but then would your back hold out? How much energy would you consume. If you got shot your still bleed.

They're would be real life consequences. No "power" would really change life butter for us. My guess is once you had it, it would feel like a curse because it wouldn't give what your thinking to you. It would be the realistic and logical part that would happen.

Just a quick question! So I read that 1 gene wouldn't be responsible to perform or act let's say being able to smell or see incredibly well. So is it possible to dna transfer someone's genes with more than 1 of an animal could the person inherit some of that animals capabilities? Also how does dna transfer work exactly? How do you transfer your genes?

If we inject very small quantity of gene of spider in a new born baby and when the baby was grown up. I think that baby have some little or very little power of spider

Would it be possible if a person (willing subject) were to try and see if mixing their genes in with let's say a birds would they gain some of the abilitys of the bird like could they grow wings (the wing would of course start small because that is how everything starts) but would it be possible for this to happen or is it to much of a strain on the human body or is it just to big of a genetic change for the body to do? And let's say it is possible would the human be able to fly? If it were possible would the wings grow so it matches the size of the human or would it only grow to the size of the bird ps normal wing spand?

So will it be possible to make Spider Man real in life, cause a spider's genes were transfered in his body... So I just wanna know... Or is their some thing like that possible on earth.... Like a new species born which looks like human but have few good ability of another species..???????? Pls tell me

WHAT ABOUT MIXING A FOX DNA INTO A FEMALE HUMAN BABY/EGG?

What if a select group of people were fused with the DNA of a python? What would happen?

Would it be possible to find one specific trait in an animal and extract it and give it to a specific part of a human. For example would one be able to find the gene that allows spiders to crawl up walls to extract that from a spider and transfer it to the hand of a human?

So far (Through what I have read), a small addition in DNA from another animal into human wont make much of an impact but. What if the DNA of a Fish or a sort of other aquatic animals when the human is developing in the Fetus, would that make an even bigger impact on the human due to it not being fully created? Or would it be Illegal and Unethical even with the parents consent. Even if the lab agreed to pay all damages and or fees needed to compensate the family. What I am trying to say is, would it be possible to create an "Amphibious Human" That looks just like a regular human but can survive in both water and on dry land without any health risks??

If someone was to be fused with say a wolf would that person have animal features?

Well it could have major consequences messing with it like say they can go on a rampage forcing evolution leg nature take its toll that’s why it’s illegal in certain countries

Is it possible to have or develop some animal features? Like say if someone did fuse animal and human DNA together and that person would have animal add-ons?

?

Can we turn a human into a hybrid of a skunk and a cat who can change back between this human form and animal form by will

In a word, no! Humans, cats and skunks are quite distantly related, although both are mammals. While it's true that we share many of the genes that make our cells work, the genetic make up of each species is unique to that species. With genetic engineering techniques, however, you could potentially confer certain traits from one species upon another, but this would be limited.

Let's say someone is cremated. Since they are still matter is it possible to change them back into their original matter? A human?

no, because you are not human anymore you are ash

Would it be possible to isolate the markers for a specific hair color of a human and integrate/splice that into an equine embryo for a specific coat colour?

Yes it is possible to have a specific eye color hair color height but it will cost a lot but it has been done before by doctors

Can you technically get traits if you add more then one gene in the system

What happen if we nuclear charge the animal genes and add with human genes

A new creature is formed. like a super human; if possible the gene act as template to another gene then another gene combine and then evolution takes place...

HOW IT CAN BE POSSIBLE///??????

I really want to be able to create dinosaurs again

We can get bones of dinosaurs and make it a liquid and put it in a artificial egg
So maybe it can possible

yes,you would have to find fly fossils which were around the dinosaurs and extract DNA from them.then you could possibly create a dinosaur although the DNA would have to be mixed with a close dinosaur relative:the chicken.

What you have suggested is not feasible. Why should a "fly fossil" contain any DNA at all, let alone dinosaur DNA; the record for reading ancient DNA is from a horse that lived 700,000 years ago (https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/interviews/whats-oldest-dna-...) and was just feasible. What makes you think a "fly fossil" from over 70 million years ago would be feasible?

I had read a report concerning mice that had subconsciously developed the P1 gene which is able to regenerate lost limbs. I reason that if mice could generate that within themselves via thought process why can't we? In the absence of self generation, would it not be feasible to infuse such into a human being. The question lies in how? Do I need to infuse through the brain being that is where DNA is made? If so could I utilize sesquiterpenes in that the permit alteration as well as passage through the blood-brain barrier?

Well it’s good it doesn’t work or have problems

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