In 1953 Watson and Crick illuminated the structure of DNA—the coded instructions for protein manufacture and crux of all living things. Since then enormous strides in genetic engineering research have enabled breakthroughs including the manipulation of bacteria DNA for the economical production of insulin, the engineering of the ultra-intelligent mind and the therapeutic engineering of cancer-fighting cells for melanoma patients.
Current genetic engineering research serves to manipulate an organism’s genetic code in one of several ways: the damaging, or “knocking out” of genes, the augmentation or enhancement of certain genes, or the transference of genes from one organism to another. Once an alteration in a gene takes place, changes in protein production result. Scrupulous observations of these protein modifications and the subsequent physiological manifestations illuminate the precise function of the gene and implications of its removal, enhancement, or transferal. This process of gene identification, manipulation, and calculated observation greatly enhances our knowledge of the fundamental aspects of biological life.
Genetic engineering will proceed with great advances in the future due to the enormous potential for altering the blueprints of biological life. With an understanding of our genetic makeup and the corresponding complex of proteins, genetic alteration offers the promise of fundamental improvement and advancement of the human condition.
Specific enzymes serve as the genetic engineer’s tools. Restriction enzymes identify nucleotide sequences and cut DNA at specific sites while ligases rejoin portions of DNA. With these tools an engineer may add copies of a gene to a DNA strand, delete a gene, or transfer a gene from the DNA of one organism to another.
Animation of genetic engineering
The introduction of engineered DNA to a novel organism or gene therapy patient requires either the removal of the cells, introduction of new DNA, propogation, and reintroduction of cells with newly engineered DNA (a process that can prove extremely painful when applied to bone marrow transplants), or the employment of a virus. Retroviruses have been synthetically created to infect target cells with the genetically modified DNA without actually making the patient ill. Alternatively viruses similar to the common cold can achieve swifter results compared to retroviruses but lack the latter’s long-lasting effect and benignity.
Relation to Terasem:
Like nanotechnology, genetic engineering will prove immensely powerful in shaping the global society of tomorrow. As Terasem aims to provide a foundation for the geoethical pursuit and application of cyberconsciousness and related technologies, genetic engineering—and specifically genetic engineering that aims at enhancing human intellectual magnitude and longevity—will become increasingly integrated into our research and development projects.
Human Genome Project: http://genome.gov/HGP/
Genetically engineered smart mouse: http://www.princeton.edu/pr/news/99/q3/0902-smart.htm
Gene therapy cures melanoma: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/31/health/main1955526.shtml
Tobacco plant expressing firefly gene
which produces the enzyme luciferase.
The genetically modified “doogie”
smart mouse explores a novel object longer than a familiar one.
Stem Cell Research
A stem cell’s abilities to both divide abundantly while maintaining an undifferentiated state and differentiate into (in the case of embryonic stem cells) any cell in the body, make it an extremely valuable candidate for use in the treatment of myriad diseases.
embryonic stem cells can differentiate into any type of human cell
Provided a reliable source of stem cells becomes available and research less hindered by political maneuverings, improved techniques for the controlled differentiation, transplantation, and engraftment could facilitate the cell-based therapies for any disease that could be mitigated with a fresh supply of a specific type of cell. Currently stem cell therapies are used to treat leukemia, lymphoma, and blood disorders.
Introduction to Stem Cells video
In addition to therapies, stem cells research seeks to understand on a basic scientific level, how undifferentiated cells make their journey into an array of specialized cells throughout the human body.
Human embryonic stem cells are derived from an embryo of approximate 4-5 days old. Give the proper conditions, they may be grown in the lab without induction of differentiation. Currently there are no human trials of embryonic stem cells but theoretically a therapy with these pluripotent cells could succeed if stem cells meet the
- Proliferate extensively and generate sufficient quantities of tissue.
- Differentiate into the desired cell type
- Survive in the recipient after transplant
- Integrate into the surrounding tissue after transplant
- Function appropriately for the duration of the recipient’s life.
- Avoid harming the recipient in any way.
Adult stem cells prove less desirable from a therapy perspective simple because their potential for differentiation is limited to a small group of cells with similar lineage. They are however, harvested with much less controversy and have been successfully transplanted in leukemia patients.
Relationship to Terasem:
As the fields of stem cell research and genetic engineering advance, our concept of a species is already beginning to change form (see the species problem). Odd chimeric blends of species even from different phyla are now commonplace. As science and society become more and more comfortable with its’ procedures, like surgury itself stem cell manipulation will become commonplace and may even even be used for aesthetic purposes. It is not unlikely that engineered human bodies may be grown in the future. Together with nanotechnology, these bodies may be engineered to accept the mindfiles people had stored back in 2007 at lifenaut.com!
Mouse embryonic stem cells marked with green florescence.
Anti Aging Research
Anti-aging research pursues methods of combating the negative effects of aging so that humans may thrive physically and mentally for as long as possible. The further possibility of slowing or even reversing aging also motivates the field of anti-aging research.
In general America has a collective successful history with anti-aging. Due to numerous factors, including preventing diseases and medical and sanitation advances, Americans are living longer, healthier lives compared to 100 years ago. Anti-aging research seeks to actively maintain or accelerate this trend in efforts to extend the amount of time one can enjoy life and contribute to society. Anti-aging researches work throughout a variety of realms including, genetic engineering, stem cells, mind-uploading, and nutrition.
Studies of centenarians and twin studies reveal that much of longevity depends on aspects of lifestyle. Not surprisingly then the anti-aging movement acts as a fountainhead for a range of nutritional supplements, herbal supplements, medical supplements, and extreme diets.
However, to overcome the most profound of all the restrictions on healthy longevity will require somewhat more ambitious and invasive advances in the anti-aging arena. Stem-cell research that seeks to harvest, engraft, and integrate new cells to replenish aging and malfunctioning tissue offers an immensely but still largely theoretical option for anti-aging.
To combat the inherent cell lifespan and cell DNA deterioration and make a stab at the fundamental parameters of aging, genetic engineering must address the healthy functioning and longevity of DNA. Enhancement of the gene that codes for telomerase, an enzyme that attaches specific nucleotide sequences to the ends of DNA strands and accordingly adds time to the cell’s life span, serves to manipulate these parameters directly. Although complications include the undesirable development of cancers, genetic engineering aimed at increased production of telomerase shows promising results in tested organisms.
Telomeres and Telomerase video
Relationship to Terasem:
In the complete transcendence of biological limits to lifespan, Terasem’s pursuit of cyberconsciousness offers the most ambitious, albeit nascent, potential for the field of anti-aging research. The disintegration of human-computer segregations and replacement with human-computer interfaces is already well underway. From rapid advancements in neural chip implant technology to the current societal dependency on computers and the internet, the trend of increased human-computer integration is inevitable. Mindfiles creation sites like Terasem’s lifenaut.com and mindware research are essentially digital approaches to anti aging research.
Juan Ponce de León famously quested for the fountain of youth.
The Life Extension Foundation
The video Immortality Institute
Future medicine’s potential to revive patients who are deemed legally dead and beyond the grasp of contemporary medicine, sustains and motivates the preservation practices know as Cryonics.
Cyropreservation utilizes extremely low temperatures to slow and then suspend all chemical action within a specified organ or entire body—staving off cellular degeneration until a hypothesized future date when new medicine, probably nanomedicine, enables the precise treatment and resuscitation of the cyropreserved object.
Proponents maintain that cryonics is not a science of resurrecting the deceased but rather a prolonged state of unconsciousness that represents continued care for those who desire this option. Indeed, with a strictly materialistic view of the ‘self’,” it is theoretically possible for a cryonics patient to emerge, after future medical intervention, with an intact identity and memory.
The common perception that the two major cryonics institutions, Alcor and the Cryonics Institute, freeze patients until future thawing is misleading. Cyronics research aims to minimize structural and chemical damage during the cooling process and consequently the current technology, known as vitrification, replaces more than 60% of the water inside cells with cyroprotectants such a glycerol. As the cells cool to -124° C (the point at which the object remains indefinitely) the presence of the cyroprotectants prevent ice formation.
The process of cyroprotectant replacement begins, ideally within the first minutes after legal death is declared and continues over the course of several hours until the patient can safely arrive at a cryonics clinic for long term cooling and storage. Currently the vitrification process can be applied to organs or whole bodies. Whole kidneys, but not more complex organs or whole organisms, have recovered from vitrification to full functionality. While the Cryonics Institute vows to only cryopreserve whole bodies, the Alcor Foundation also offers vitrification of the brain alone. The premise behind neural (brain only) cryopreservation that the rest of the body may be artificially produced or even unnecessary with future technology.
Relationship to Terasem:
Both Teasem and Cryonics research subscribe to the central tenet that all personality, emotion, identity, memory, and self- consciousness have physical origins within the immensely complex organization of the brain. While modern science supports—but still wrestles with the physics of this phenomenon—the implications allow for the possibility of a patient’s cyronically preserved brain to emerge from deep cooling, and when restored to a healthy physical state, contain the totality of the patient’s psyche. Terasem’s hypothesis that a consciousness may arise from purely physical origins with suitable advances in consciousness software and consciousness information collection alternatively pushes the implications of materialism. With adequate advances in Terasem’s movement, the analog consciousness technology may serve as an alternative to cryopreservation, with the patients psyche stored electronically.
Fundamentally, both Terasem and the field of Cryonics see biological death, not as an untouchable imperative, but as an occurrence warranting challenges and redefinition with scientific advances.
The Molecular Repair of the Brain by Dr. Ralph Merkle originally published as “The Technical Feasibility of Cryonics” in Medical Hypotheses Vol. 39, 1992; 6-16.
Ted Williams, whose 20/10 vision made him an excellent military pilot and arguably baseball’s greatest hitter,
has been cryonically preserved at Alcor.
A frozen kidney next to a kidney vitrified in an Alcor facility.
Notable Cryonically Preserved People
- James Bedford
- Thomas K. Donaldson
- Lidia Fedorenko
- Jerry Leaf
- John Henry Williams
- Ted Williams (baseball)
- Fred Chamberlin (one of the original founders of Alcor)
|Alcor Life Extension Foundation||Scottsdale, Arizona||1972||Yes|
|American Cryonics Society||Cupertino, California||1969||Yes|
|Cryonics Institute||Clinton Township, Michigan||1976||Yes|
|Suspended Animation, Inc||Boynton Beach, Florida||2002||No|
|Trans Time, Inc.||San Leandro, California||1972||No|