Here at PopSci we love a good broad agency announcement from DARPA (that's where they ask the private sector to do something technologically outrageous), but even next to the flying Humvees, the weather manipulation, the cyborg beetles, and the "hundred-year starships," this one, we have to say, is WAY out there. DARPA wants a genetic security system that's built into the genome that can monitor for and report on changes to an organism's genetic makeup.
Or--to borrow Danger Room's metaphor--DARPA wants a "track changes" feature for genomes like the one that tracks edits in a Word document, a technology that will record and report any modification to a genome. They call it Chronicle of Lineage Indicative of Origins, or CLIO. We're calling it ambitious.
First of all, why? DARPA ostensibly wants such a technology to protect intellectual property. Genomes (and specific genes) are now bio-commodities, and patented microbes and the genes therein are the property of those who create them. A tool like CLIO would help protect patented genes from misuse as well as to help competitors prove that they are not infringing on another lab's IP. DARPA also wants CLIO to devise a way to encrypt a genome so it can't be stolen by rival researchers or (and now perhaps we get to the heart of the DoD's interest) rival states.
The more important question is: how? DARPA offers the usual vague suggestions, like "possibly utilizing a cryptographical or complex mathematical approach." Complex doesn't sound like the half of it. Then again, it's DARPA's function to propose seemingly-impossible problems like this. As the personal genomics revolution presses forward, we all someday might not only have copies of our entire genomes, but we may have them password-protected as well.
I'm still not so sure patenting genes is a good idea, even if they are bio-engineered, and someone else's work, mainly because farmers have to pay for their work now, instead of the other way around, as it should be.
This is clearly a hypothetical but I have my reasons. What if the technology to alter human genes in a live subject already existed? Let's say that this technology was not government controlled. Let's postulate that there are entities unknown that have the ability to issue software upgrades to the human genome. Let's also say here that DARPA knows about this, and while it isn't an immediate threat to humanity, that they want to start taking steps to understand the intentions and origins of the unknown hackers.
patenting genes is BS. I go out and buy a few bushels of corn, dry it out, plant it; and I now owe someone money? COME TRY TO COLLECT. BRING GUNS. GOOD LUCK. I BOUGHT THE DAMN CORN ALREADY. SCREW MONSANTO AND ANYONE WHO LOOKS LIKE EM.
Let's put it this way. All over the planet, people have driven trucks til they are no good anymore, and someone cuts the bed off, welds on a couple of pieces of the front frame rails, and viola! Instant trailer. Does GM or Ford or Unimog come demanding money for what was already legally purchased in whole? The answer is NO because they aren't a bunch of pieces of crap like Monsanto is. The seeds I PURCHASE IN WHOLE ARE MINE. I PAID TAXES ON THE PURCHASE SO THIS SO CALLED GOVERNMENT SAYS IT IS LEGITIMATE. If I want to plant Ford trucks on my acreage, or corn; the proceeds of either are mine if I bought my 'starter stock' outright. If the starter stock is NOT sold in whole, then why isn't Monsanto going right into every single person's hut on this world and demanding their so-called property back? Simple. Those hut-dwellers don't own American farmland that Monsanto wants to steal.
the main problem I have is that these companies sell genetically modified seeds to farmers. the farmers buy the seeds. they plant the seeds. they harvest the crops. they make minimal wage, but can't necessarily change jobs due to educational, economical (most likely), or other reasons. they can't save the seeds from the new plants and save money so that they can make an income. they have to buy more seeds, and they have, in some cases, have had to sign a contract not to buy other seeds, or cant because of growing population, an increasing demand for food, and the regular seeds don't grow as quickly, or as bountifully. and this IS a real issue, and it DOES take place on american farms, and monsanto ISN'T the only genetically modified seed company. this genetic security system isn't so bad, but may not be necessary, if (and I hope I'm not asking too much here) people stopped caring more about how to most effectively take money from other people, than about other people.
Would this mean that I would be someone's property if I were to some how have one of these patented genes placed in my genome?
and that is the other part of the debate.
Would this mean that when a human gene is created that person would be owned by the person who create the gene.
They can always sequence the genome of the organism in question and compare it to the reference genome to know exactly what has been altered. That much is easily doable.
But a system of molecular machinery built into the organism itself that somehow continuously scans the genome for changes and records them somewhere (where? in another special purpose genome?) is pure science fiction.
Not only the mastery of molecular biology required for similar tasks is at the very least a century away, the idea doesn't even make sense in principle. There is simply no way to know that a DNA mutation/alteration took place unless you have a full length backup copy of the genome (stored in some very special way to make it mutation resistant) which you can continuously compare with the original to (somehow) detect the changes. Then you would also need some very special medium in which to encode incremental changes which can be quite complex as it's not only simple mutations but also deletions, insertions and rearrangements. And all that is actually the easy part as both the backup copy and the changes repository would have to be copied with perfect accuracy every time the cell divides and then correctly distributed to daughter cells so that each one has it's own set.
Seriously we have a much better chance to come up with life extension or an elixir of youth then such a system.
The advent of gnenetic engineering is the one most important developments of the twentieth century. It holds untold rewards for humanity; it alsohold untold dangers for the whole human race. All governments on earth should have an agency to approve and over see all genetic engineering. I myself cannot see how any genes can be patented. No one has to my knowledge created a gene. Liveing organisms only can create them. Yes they can exist long after the death of an organism but to create one in a test tube is a different story. What these people are doing is taking genes from one organism and splicing them into another. Their methods and procedures should be eligible for patent but not the genes themselves. These genes exist in nature and should be no more eligible for patent then a polar bear or a blue goose. Their creations could be registered in some origination as pure breed dogs, horses and other livestock are, but not patented. This work also has a great risk of creating organisms that are dangerous to man and the environment. This could happen ether by escaping from the laboratory or by excaping cultivation in the field. Careful selective breeding of wild organisms created all plants and animals that people rase and keep. Many of these plants and animals are closely related to ones that still exist in the wild and are capable of crossing with those that are domesticated. There are weeds that have picked up herbicide resistance from crop plants. As for bacteria they routinely exchange genes on their own with no help from anyone. The only reason I can see for them to insert some garbage genes into something is to protect their patents for another seventeen years.
It might be possible to "encrypt" a genome by switching around the tRNAs that match 3-basepair codons with amino acids. This would create a cell that translated its DNA in a different way from all other organisms, so if the genes were transplanted into other organisms (by a rival company for example), they would produce nonsense.
Altering the tRNAs would be very difficult, and you would have to rewrite the host organism's entire genome to keep it alive, but perhaps it could be done. There have already been experiments with altered tRNAs to make bacteria produce proteins with "unnatural" amino acids.
Of course, it would take much less time and money to decode such a system than to create it in the first place, so industrial espionage would not be hindered at all.
One generations plants the trees, the next enjoys the shade.
I feel so bad that most of you don't understand the implications of the "genomic revolution." Here is a primer ( www.fas.org/irp/cia/product/bw1103.pdf ), which is basically an unclassified CIA document.
Sorry to wax poetically (with religious overtones yet, jez) but: Mankind has eaten from the Tree of Life, but doesn't yet have the wisdom. Inevitably, civilization is going to be badly burned.
Just to place this in historical perspective: the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic killed more people than all wars combined, and it was only about 2% lethal. Engineered virus can be much more lethal. By the way, for those who rationalize that a more lethal pathogen would be less effective at spreading: common smallpox is something like 40% lethal, and it did pretty well even before people were routinely traveling intercontinental. You can add the IL-4 gene to common smallpox and make it not only even more contagious (!), but almost 100% lethal.
Does the above DARPA suggestion sound more reasonable now? Individuals can now construct highly contagious extremely lethal virus.
One generations plants the trees, the next enjoys the shade.
I apologize for the double post, but if a member of DARPA is reading this: I suggest making a top priority the (re)creation of a two tiered double helix like shown in the Chilbolton "Arecibo message" formation. Very few minds on this planet will understand what I am referring to, or the utility of my suggestion. By the way, I am a member of Mensa, and a USCF National Master at chess. Let me add that it is virtually impossible that such a biological formation would evolve naturally -imagine the circumstance that forced minds to forge it. My suspicion is that civilization has been scorched by nukes before.
'Beware of false gifts and broken promises. There is much pain, but still hope. The solution is to believe the truth. The conduit is closing...'
One of the big problems the government is facing is who is human and who is alien. WIth their hybridization program, the aliens are creating a new species that has a combination of their genes and ours. So I think that DARPA is interested in identifying these hybrids.
From the patent bureau point of view it is simple : whoever comes up with an patented idea holds the right to sell that idea of products based on that idea. Now if gene patents are issued ( and they have been) the patent holder will go after anybody who they identify as unauthorized implementing the patent. DARPA just wants some tracking so the cases will be easier to prove. They are a paranoid bunch. All they want is protect the patent owners. What is happening now is a money rush on the patent genes with no end in site.
You should not combine 2 or more patent genes to come up with your own patent.
I took out a loan to have my genes upgraded. I cant afford to pay and now they are going to repo them.
this revolution needs controls just like every other part of our economy, if you don't like it, move to your own island, quit being a bunch of winers and get over it, excellent post doberman
Monitoring changes and acting when a change is detected is not all that far-fetched. Our own cells do this all the time; they're reaction is apoptosis, but who's to say that starting from that point wouldn't get us far enough to keep the sensing and change the response? For example, what if instead of expressing the protein-degrading enzymes when a change is detected, we replace them with GFP? Then the cell will glow when it's been changed.
The cryptography is a bit more difficult. My only ideas would be pure obfuscation: have the product of one gene regulate another gene, whose product regulates another gene, etc. for many steps before the final product is actually expressed. It'll be a pain in the ass for everyone involved, but it would be a layer of abstraction added to the security.
-IMP ;) :)