The next breakthroughs in biological sciences will almost certainly ride the wave of genetic engineering. Technological advances in three domains — DNA sequencing, synthetic biology, and genome modification — let us push the boundaries of science into new territories. Genome sequencing has been applied to thousands of organisms. As we continue to catalogue the so-called book of life, we may soon be able to write our own chapters. To design new species entirely.
What mythical creature would you bring to life, if you could create anything? Because I’m a geneticist, I field the occasional request. Unicorns are popular. Yet for me, there is no question. Only one creature of legend both fascinates and terrifies me. A descendant of the terrible lizards that once ruled our planet.
Jurassic Park is one of my favorite books. Extracting DNA from dinosaur blood found in amber-encased mosquitoes seemed like such an excellent plan. Regrettably, the much older scientist version of me realized that DNA molecules are far too fragile to persist for millions of years, even protected in amber. No, if we are going to write the genetic code of dragons, we will have to do it from scratch.
On the bright side, that means we’ll be able to control the design. In theory, we can create dragons to look however we want. Maybe even to think and behave however we want, though that’s going to be more challenging. As Ian Malcolm famously says in Jurassic Park, nature finds a way.
Where to Find It
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