by Eric Pettifor
Remember all those episodes of the various Star Treks where characters were genetically altered, either willingly or unwillingly, by some means or other? It would happen within the course of a single episode and be neatly fixed at the end, with a hypo from the lovely Dr. Crusher.
In reality, of course, altering the DNA in every cell of a person’s body is a very tall order — let alone reverting them back to exactly what they were before, so that they might carry on as usual in next week’s episode.
Unless you happen to be a nemotode worm.
Researchers at Cambridge University have succeeded in genetically altering nemotode worms so that they glow in ultraviolet light. They have been given one additional amino acid in addition to the 20 provided by nature.
How did these boffins of biology do it? The article is weak on detail, but if this process could scale to humans (nemotode worms are only 1 mm long and have only about a thousand cells), it might put a twist on the ethical debate concerning genetic enhancement. No longer would the question be whether to enhance foetuses, but whether we should wait until an individuals are old enough to decide for themselves whether or not they want to be enhanced and how.
Expect also to see a new twist on spam: “In life’s genetic lottery, were you short changed in the john thomas department? Now you can say, ‘Screw you, Mother Nature’ and be sufficiently endowed to ensure she enjoys it.” Not that I have any insecurities in that regard, but if they were to come up with a genetic tweak for male pattern baldness . . .
Still, be careful of what you wish for. Don’t forget what happened to Tom Paris, when traveling at warp 10 somehow screwed with his genetics. He turned into a giant salamander. And so did Captain Janeway. Then they had giant salamander babies. Perhaps we shouldn’t play God.