When Frankenstein has introduced all those years ago to readers, no one ever imagined that genetic engineering could be a possibility. Back then, almost 200 years ago, it would almost have been impossible to accurately describe the concept of genes let alone engineering them.
Fast forward today and the realm of genetic engineering had grown by leaps and bounds to become one of the most formidable industries in human existence. Today, genetic engineering, including human genetic engineering, is not as far-fetched or as radical as it once was. Indeed, genetic engineering is responsible for some of the biggest advancements in healthcare, medicine, and research.
The first genetically engineered organism did not happen until 1973. Since then, this technology has expanded rapidly. Today, countless industries rely on the developments of genetic engineering to perform more efficiently. For example, companies that specialize in manufacturing use bacteria that were developed through genetic engineering to break down crude oil so that it is easier to clean up in instances of spills.
One of the most common uses of genetic engineering is in the field of agriculture. Today, soybeans are some of the most commonly found GMO or Genetically Modified Crops in the world. So much so that at least 90% of soybeans planted these days are GMO. Beyond agriculture, genetic engineering is also used commonly in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals.
Since the advent of genetic engineering in the 70s, sci-fi has been addressing some of the most pressing issues and questions about this field. It is clear that the world needs Genetic engineering and everything that it can offer. However, is it ethical?
More importantly, sci-fi helps us get a peek into the logical and illogical worse case scenarios that can occur if this technology is manhandled or misused. So here are examples of genetic engineering book plot ideas that turned out to be true:
Glow in the dark creatures
Science fiction is always light-years ahead of real-life science. Creatures such as glow-in-the-dark animals were often confined to the pages of sci-fi books. However, glow-in-the-dark animals have been with us for quite some time now. Discovered in 2007, a group of Korean scientists altered a cat’s DNA to make it glow in the dark.
Since then, dozens of animals have been cloned in a similar manner including wooly sheep in Uruguay, rabbits, pigs, monkeys, dogs, and even fish. Why would scientists want to make glow-in-the-dark animals? In cats, they are being used to gain insights into AIDS treatment.
On the other hand, genetically modified primates that glow and pass on this trait to their offspring are studied, and then modifications made that could lead to the treatment of a broad range of illnesses and diseases in humans. Glow in the dark animals are often featured in many alien-based, artificial intelligence books and dystopic sci-fi novels featured on GiftWits.
The Enviropig is a pig that has been genetically modified to defecate less phosphorous. Like all animals, pigs need phosphorous to build their bodies. However, pigs are unable to digest phytate, which is the phosphorous heavy molecule that is found naturally in grains.
As such, to ensure that pigs have all the phosphorus that they need, farmers usually add phytase or phosphate into the pig feed. Unfortunately, though, pigs excrete almost all the phosphorus that they consume, and when they defecate it all ends up in the ocean.
Once in the ocean, it creates dead zones that result in hundreds of dead marine wildlife. The Enviropig was therefore created to digest its own phytates so that less of it can end up in the ocean. Science fiction movies and novels have been featuring genetically modified animals for years. Case in point, a spider bites Peter Parker in Spiderman thus giving him supernatural qualities.
The 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park also highlights genetically modified animals. For instance, Dr. Grant and Satler used dinosaur DNA to bring extinct creatures back like the velociraptors and brachiosauruses back into being. Although we still are a long way off from making this kind of genetic engineering possible (if ever) genetic engineering keeps growing by leaps and bounds. So who knows what’s really possible?
Human genetic engineering
One of the most commonly referred to instances of human genetic engineering in science fiction is highlighted in the world-famous fiction Bladerunner. Bladerunner, which was written in 1982, is set in the future of 2019 where the city of LA is over-polluted and overpopulated. The city is under the leadership of a group of perfectly designed genetically engineered humans known as Replicants.
Scientists have long been advocating for human genetic engineering. However, this field has been marred with debates and issues relating to ethics and morality. And while the idea of reprogramming human biology has always been controversial, to say the least; the issue is different when we are talking about life-saving therapy.
Human genetic engineering is therefore slowly making its way to modern society as medical solutions. Although this will come with a whole host of benefits, there are still some downsides that are concerning as covered by many genetic engineering books on Cool Things Chicago. For instance, the ethical guidelines for human genetic engineering are still being laid out.
Recognizing that human genetic engineering is no longer just the stuff of fiction, it is expected that this field will keep growing in the future. Suddenly, Star Wars Attack of the Clone doesn’t seem too absurd anymore as a result.
The world has always needed science fiction. Not just as a means of escape from reality but also for inspiration. Science fiction hones the human being’s appetite and hunger for new inventions and technologies. It is how discoveries are made and progress created. As the pace of modern technology continues to mount, change is truly inevitable. Science fiction writers have a knack for predicting the inevitable. It is these hugely creative writers that allow scientists to turn fiction into reality. It is also these same authors that highlight the dangers associated with discoveries, always cautioning human beings to reflect on the consequences of their actions.