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DNA backup - Ed's journal
DNA backup
So, DNA - it sort of degrades as you age, and that's mostly why you get old and die, and is a cause of cancer and stuff.

So... how difficult is it to make a copy of it, like 'right now' for the sake of say - future organ cloning?
If you could replace failing body parts with 'you aged 20' would you have a substantial improvement on quality of life?

And give that, does it make sense to take backups _now_ despite not necessarily being able to make use of them? Such as exhaustive DNA sequencing, and saving a copy in an archive somewhere, in the hope that in 30 years time, you'll be able to 'load' it, and grow a heart transplant or similar.

And even if this is utter hokey nonsense, does it sound plausible enough that someone is already running it as a scam?
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(Deleted comment)
queex From: queex Date: June 9th, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Caveat- I've only learned this at one remove as part of my genetics work.

When DNA gets copied, the molecule that does so can't copy the very ends of it. The telomeres on on the ends are repeating segment of junk data, padding the DNA so nothing important is lost because of that. One of the aging mechanisms involves this padding running out.

Stopping this duplication and keeping a 'clean copy' with a large telomere might be feasible- but the same duplication process also repairs any damage to the DNA so your exemplar may degrade in ways that 'live', gradually shortening DNA wouldn't.

(Incidentally- unnatural ways of lengthening telomeres often occur in some cancer cells.)
forest_rose From: forest_rose Date: June 9th, 2010 11:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes - I'm pretty sure that you'd end up with a lot of cancerous cells because of the telomere problem.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 10th, 2010 06:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm, so the backups would corrupt themselves, maybe even faster than the source.
Does sequencing it, storing it as an electronic copy, in the hope of future recreating as-was make sense?
Or if we're ever in that position, it's irrelevant anyway, as your actual DNA is probably more useful anyway?
4givensins From: 4givensins Date: June 10th, 2010 07:26 am (UTC) (Link)
I should probably be more confident with this answer than I am, but I am almost certain that accurately synthesising a whole DNA sequence is something we're not likely to be able to do in our lifetime. I am also almost certain that if you could, then it would be useful. Make of that what you will.

My biology training ended over a decade ago, so I'm not an expert.
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: June 10th, 2010 07:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I expect the DNA sequence of a whole mammal to be synthesized in the next five years, ten at the outside. Venter recently created the first artificial genome, albeit one of a bacterium with a very small genome.
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: June 10th, 2010 07:59 am (UTC) (Link)
"Yes - I'm pretty sure that you'd end up with a lot of cancerous cells because of the telomere problem."

I don't think so. Cells turn cancerous because of multiple mutations which usually includes activating telomerase, but simply re-introducing cells whose DNA has the full original complement of telomeres wouldn't be likely to cause cancer, since this DNA wouldn't be carrying the cancerous mutations.
forest_rose From: forest_rose Date: June 10th, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sorry, I was half asleep when I wrote this - I was referring to Queex's ponderings about keeping a cell with a large telomere which. But, re-reading, I think he meant a normal, complete telomere rather than an extra-long one which would give the opportunity for more mutations, so I take back my warnings of doom.

DNA! Get choor DNA! Now with extra telomeres!
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: June 10th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah, gotcha. Yes, an extra-long telomere wouldn't help.
mister_jack From: mister_jack Date: June 10th, 2010 08:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and current sequencing tech is pretty bad compared to the accuracy of DNA replication (by about 3 or 4 orders of magnitude). And the synthesise of DNA even less accurate so there's a good chance that back up and restore would actually create more errors than just being alive would.
purp1e_magic From: purp1e_magic Date: June 10th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Don't know much about it (or rather I know as much about it as your other comments include) but it sounds to me like cryogenics: freeze my body and hope they work out how to defrost me.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: June 10th, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sort of, but not exactly. I think it's plausible that we be able to use "good" DNA to clone organ replacements. DNA also degrades with time, and mutates, and shortens. So yes it's a bit like that but to my mind liable to be ... less about freezing and resurrection, and more about preemptive maintenance.
From: dj_rws Date: June 13th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Technically making a copy of your DNA is plausible and then regrowing bits of you by as yet undeveloped technologies will probably be possible in our lifetime. However what biologically makes you, you is not enitrely down to "genetic" information:

(Explains things to degree level chemistry/biology)

There are more complex biological factors such as protein-protein interactions, post-translation genetic modifications such as methylation (methyltransferases), (de)/acylation (HDACs) and protein (mis)/folding (thought to be involved in Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders).

Life is more than just a box of chocolates.
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