Are you alternatively spliced? biotechnology industry based on science that is forty years old (13/8/2003)

GRAIN has reprinted an article, Unravelling the DNA myth, by Barry Commoner in which he points out that the Human Genome Project only identified 1/3 of the genes it would theoretically require to generate the number of proteins in the human body if a single gene encoded the amino acid sequence of a single protein.

In other words, we now know that there is not a one to one equivalence between genes and proteins which means genetic engineering is far more complicated than has ever been assumed (ie one cannot just insert a transgene and have a precisely predictable effect).

No wonder Craig Venter, who led one of the teams of scientists which sequenced the human genome, has asserted, "We don't know shit about biology".

Commoner writes, "the biotechnology industry is based on science that is forty years old and conveniently devoid of more recent results, which show that there are strong reasons to fear the potential consequences of transferring a DNA gene between species."

Yet the disparity between the underlying premises of genetic engineering and actual experimental findings remains largely unacknowledged and experiments with transgenic plants and animals (many of which are not even recognised to be experiments) continue on a massive scale.

Commoner concludes, "What the public fears is not the experimental science but the fundamentally irrational decision to let it out of the laboratory into the real world before we truly understand it."

Here's an excerpt. The full article can be read here:
...Scientists and journalists somehow failed to notice what had happened. The [Human Genome] project's scientific reports offered little to explain the shortfall in the gene count. One of the possible explanations for why the gene count was "so discordant with our predictions" was described in Science as follows: "nearly 40% of human genes are alternatively spliced." Properly understood, this modest, if esoteric, account fulfills Crick's dire prophecy: it "shakes the whole intellectual basis of molecular biology" and undermines the scientific validity of its application to genetic engineering. Alternative splicing is a startling departure from the orderly design of the Central Dogma, in which a single gene encodes the amino acid sequence of a single protein. In alternative splicing, the gene's original nucleotide sequence is split into fragments that are then recombined in different ways to encode a multiplicity of proteins, each of them different in their amino acid sequence from each other and from the sequence that the original gene, if left intact, would encode. Alternative splicing can have an extraordinary impact on the gene/protein ratio. The current record for the number of different proteins produced from a single gene by alternative splicing is held by the fruit fly, in which one gene generates up to 38,016 variant protein molecules.

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