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Jeanie The Gene Editor

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright November 2017

Introduction

Jeanie thought of herself as an anti-nerd.

She didn't spend hours on mastering Commander Codine v15, instead she worked hard to understand the real world. She was born and raised in a Free Range Kids style baby club so spending time outdoors in the real world was easy to do. As a young girl she spent a lot of time messing in the rocks, mud and reeds of the stream that ran through a wild park beside their apartment complex. While she was real young she mastered the art of herding tadpoles in that stream. Then as she grew older she saw that they sprouted legs and lost their tails to transform in to the frogs she also saw. As she grew still older she switched from tadpole herder to frog hunter, loved that, and then moved on to other interesting outdoor activities in other places, like exploring forests, cliffs and waterfalls in the parks her family visited, and getting into swimming and sand castle building on the beaches. She loved exploring coral reefs.

Now as a teenager she was discovering neat things and finding adventure inside as well as out. She liked what she was learning in school, and one of the things she discovered there was gene editing. She further discovered she could feel a lot of accomplishment making those twisty DNA and RNA molecules do what she wanted. And when the course at school ended she discovered she could do this at home, too. She could buy Do It Yourself (DIY) gene editing kits. Well, her parents actually bought them, they were pretty expensive.

Using them she edited genes in E. coli and other bacteria so they would make new kinds of proteins. She edited viruses so that when they infected the bacteria they would do the same -- for some proteins that was the easier method.

Her current foray is gene editing bacteria that will then live inside a mammal's intestines -- gene editing gut bacteria. The goal is to change the mammal's health by changing what proteins the gut bacteria make and excrete. Some of the new protein will get absorbed by the mammal's intestines and become part of the mammal's body chemistry. There it will affect the body's metabolism and through that the body's health and well being.

This is an indirect way of manipulating a mammal's health, but it is much simpler than trying to directly manipulate mammal DNA and genes. The bacteria and virus DNA and genes are much, much simpler in their layouts, and people don't complain nearly as much about the ethical issues. Lots of people still worry that there's a gene apocalypse just around the corner. They worry that DIY editing will create some unstoppable evil. (and not just DIY, by the way) But with the cost of gene editing equipment dropping so steadily, and the precision rising so steadily, and so many styles of genes to work on that aren't connected to humans, those worries are drowned out by the ease of getting into the hobby.

Net result: Jeanie is having fun exploring a new technology, and doing yet more learning about the real world.

 

 

--The End--

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