Zinc Fingering Our Way to Genetic Enhancement

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zinc finger model

New York Times science reporter Nicholas Wade has fascinating article today about the development of engineered versions of zinc fingers to modify gene expression and even modify genes themselves. Zinc fingers are finger-shaped folds in certain proteins that permit them to interact with DNA and RNA. Wade describes on clinical trial in which the zinc fingers are being used to modify the immune cells of HIV patients so that they can no longer be attacked by the virus. As Wade notes:

The technique, which depends on natural agents called zinc fingers, may revive the lagging fortunes of gene therapy because it overcomes the inability to insert new genes at a chosen site. Other researchers plan to use the zinc finger technique to provide genetic treatments for diseases like bubble-boy disease, hemophilia and sickle-cell anemia.

In principle, the zinc finger approach should work on almost any site on any chromosome of any plant or animal. If so, it would provide a general method for generating new crop plants, treating many human diseases, and even making inheritable changes in human sperm or eggs, should such interventions ever be regarded as ethically justifiable….

Zinc fingers could be the gift that stem cell researchers have been waiting for. Stem cells taken from a patient may need to be genetically corrected before use, but until now there had been no way of doing so.

Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch, a stem cell expert at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., reported in August that he had successfully singled out three genes in induced embryonic stem cells with the help of zinc finger scissors designed by Sangamo. "This is a really important tool for human embryonic stem cells," Dr. Jaenisch said. The technology has not yet reached perfection. Some of the zinc fingers Sangamo provided "worked beautifully," he said, but some did not.

Zinc fingers may also make technically possible a morally fraught procedure that has been merely a theoretical possibility — the alteration of the human germ line, meaning the egg or sperm cells. Genetic changes made in current gene therapy are to body cells, and they would die with the individual. But changes made to the germ line would be inherited. Many ethicists and others say this is a bridge that should not be crossed, since altering the germ line, even if justifiable for medical reasons, would lower the barrier to other kinds of change.

Several scientists were reluctant to discuss the issue, or dismissed it by saying that even zinc fingers did not meet the error-free standards that would be required for germ-line engineering. But zinc finger scissors are so efficient that only 5 to 10 embryos need be treated to get one with the desired result. This could make it practical to alter the germ line.

Since the germ lines of rats and zebra fish have already been altered with zinc finger scissors, "in principle there is no reason why a similar strategy could not be used to modify the human germ line," Dr.[Matthew] Porteus, [a pediatric geneticist at the University of Texas], said. The kind of disease that might be better treated in the germ line, if ethically acceptable, is cystic fibrosis, which affects many different tissues.

The disease could be corrected in unfertilized eggs, using the zinc finger technique, Dr. Porteus said. But he added, "I don't think our society is ready for someone to propose this."

Who's not ready? In any case, see the whole Wade article here.

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  1. New Year’s prediction: zinc fingering is the new rainbow party.

    1. Better than sausage fingering, though, right?

      1. You of all people should know that nothing is better than sausage fingering.

        1. Maybe from your perspective, but not the parent’s/school administrator’s.

  2. I’m SOOOO ready.

    Why shouldn’t my kid have a good back, be extra smart, and good looking. And while we are at it, maybe give him some electric genes from electric eels, and some night vision as well.

    1. You forgot fire. Fire is cool.

      1. I couldn’t think of any cool fire gene that could be easily submitted.

        Maybe a firefly, but getting my butt to glow didn’t seem that useful, but who knows, maybe chicks would dig it, rofl

      2. You’re thinking small potatoes. Space Marine Gene Seed anyone? http://warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Gene-seed

        1. I played as the Imperial Guard, but the Space Marine lore is pretty awesome.

          1. You guys realize you are nerds for having that exchange about Warhammer 40K, right?

            1. And here I thought that playing game where you actually measure range between miniatures and throw down radial templates for measuring grenade effectiveness would have made me cool. Just merely discussing it should be good enough, but your comment implies otherwise.

              It was 20 years ago, if that makes it any more acceptable.

              1. Just giving you shit. I played 40K on PC a couple years back and thought it was pretty cool. The mythos and all the accoutrements are pretty interesting.

                1. The PC version made it so much more accessible. Games Workshop (who makes the table top game) has a tendency to charge pretty exorbitant amounts for their miniatures. Not to mention you have to buy rule books (but thats why we invented the Internet, right?).

                  I’ve only actually played 2 tabletop games, but the mythos is unique and interesting. I play Tau, by the way. Pretty much 41st millenium Space ChiComs.

                  1. And the neverending painting…when Dawn of War came out it was pure joy.

                    (Marines, Guards, Orcs, …hell i had a few of everything.)

          2. Orks FTW!!

            1. Wow, this whole thread makes me want to get my old Chaos army out of storage.

              Blood for the Blood God!

              1. Hahaha, get it out. I have a couple of friends recovering their old armies from their parent’s basement. It’s getting popular again. There is a movie in production too:
                http://ultramarinesthemovieblog.com/

  3. Jimmy: Hey, what gives?

    Jimmy’s Dad: You said you wanted to live in a world without zinc, Jimmy. Well now your car has no battery.

    Jimmy: But I promised Betty I’d pick her up by 6:00. I better give her a call.

    Jimmy’s Dad: Sorry, Jimmy. Without zinc for the rotary mechanism, there are no telephones.

    Jimmy: Dear God! What have I done?

    [Jimmy pulls out a gun and points it to his head and fires]

    Jimmy’s Dad: Think again, Jimmy. You see the firing pin in your gun was made out of?yep?zinc.

    Jimmy: Come back zinc, come Back!!

    1. Worst wish since Coiley came into existence.

      “No springs!”

      1. “That’s a myth cultivated by anti-spring extremists.”

      2. One of the best shorts on Mystery Science Theater 3000:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngBNklagsHQ

  4. I predict either a full-scale immortality technology which will come about nearly overnight….. or the never-ending quest which seems to spin it’s wheels and go nowhere.

    hard to say which one will happne.

  5. “Wade describes on clinical trial in which the zinc fingers are being used to modify the immune cells of HIV patients so that they can no longer be attacked by the virus.”

    Ron, there’s a whole lot better way to “protect” immune cells of “patients” of the mysterious “HIV.” Let the body’s natural anti-body immunity disarm the phantom “human immunodeficiency virus,” as its “discoverer”, Dr. Luc Montagnier, says can can happen within just a few weeks. Watch him say it in this interview:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v…..re=related

    — Your friendly local “denialist”, Terry Michael, whose entire 8,000 word piece de-bunking the HIV=AIDS paradigm can be found here:
    http://www.terrymichael.net/Ht…..eport.html

    1. You know, I had thought that reason had possibly banned LoneJerkweed, but I guess he just changed his handle to “Terry Michael” and his obsession to “HIV != AIDS”. Wait…Mexicans can get AIDS, right?

      IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW

      1. Take this under advisement, jerkweed.

        1. Episiarch cracked the case. I. Am. So. Envious.

          1. Some of us use our real names and don’t hide behind screen names, such as “Episiarch.” Always easy to engage in ad hominem attacks when you don’t have to be held accountable.

  6. I’m shocked that no one has made a ztink finger joke, or a smell my zinc finger.

  7. this seems relevant:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAJ4XVmI4dc

    best of all, it is subtitled in Spanish

  8. Call me when we can upload consciousness to nanomachines. I want to be made up of quadrillions of nanobots. Kind of like Gah Lak Tus.

  9. KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!

  10. There was also a decent review of a book on DARPA in Sunday’s times.

  11. I’m shocked that no one has made a ztink finger joke, or a smell my zinc finger.

    Sorry. I was zinc-fingering my sulfur-hole and got stuck.

    /nerdshot

  12. Ahh, Mr. Bond… at last, we meet.

    1. No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to galvanize.

  13. My paranoid thought is: How long until some medical activist creates a virulent infectious virus using this technique to inject genetic changes, (infection which then spreads on a mass scale) with his or her idea of a Human “Improvement”?

    Future you: “We are all green skinned now and get our nourishment from standing in the sun.”

    Or maybe the Zombie apocalypse really will occur …

    1. More likely that an environmentalist or generic anti-humanist would simply create a massively lethal virus (say, near 100% fatality, high contagiousness, and a long incubation period) to eliminate humanity.

      Or a racist could try to weed out a certain race, but A) intellectual racism is rarer than intellectual anti-humanism these days, B) it’s much riskier when you have to worry about -not- killing everyone.

      1. There is no cause for alarm, because Bruce Willis will return from the future to stop the radical anti-humanist from destroying humanity.

        1. WTF HE FAILED? NO ONE TOLD ME!

  14. Thank goodness I still live in a world of telephones, car batteries, handguns, and many things made of zinc.

  15. should such interventions ever be regarded as ethically justifiable

    What if it cured cancer? Not just some bullshit disease that only a handful of losers have? (1 ticket please. Worked at the Cystic Fibrous Foundation for a while: in no way shape or form was i being serious there.)

    As long as the procedures are voluntary (ie, not govt mandated) then i see no ethical roadblock.

    “ohhhhhh, but inheritable changes means their children are affected and have no choice in the matter!” STFU. Kids don’t have a say on whether their parents can work in a nuclear plant, but that could result in inheritable changes.

    Face it, kids have no say in what they genetically inherit. All you can do is hate your parents. In otherwords, aside from healthier lives society wont really change at all. Least not when it comes to kids hatin their parents.

    1. Oh, and the flipside of the coin is the kid who is born with CF and then sues his parents for not having the CF engineered-out before his conception.

  16. stink finger > zinc finger

  17. THE CURE for HIV/AIDS…….AMBUSH

    THE IDEA that AMBUSH cures AIDS
    is being proven by the more than 400 individuals who have taken a dose of 60 ml three times daily for 21 days. The result is that AMBUSH ‘KILLS’ the virus by causing the protein envelope to rupture and the viral particles are discarded by the white blood cells. AMBUSH is able to ‘KILL’ the virus that are ‘hiding’ in the lymph system by its ‘natural radioactive’ properties. This process allows the body to ‘return to normal health’ with a corresponding immunity to that or those strains of the virus.

    What is AMBUSH ?
    AMBUSH is a radioactive isotope of uranium that is found in the ‘palm’ plant of which there are more than 3000 species. When ingested, AMBUSH causes the body temperature in the trunk area to rise to about 102 degrees when the individual is sleeping. The preparation takes four hours per batch, which is then given to the individuals for consumption 60 ml three times daily for 21 days. AMBUSH is a herbal preparation in this form but it contains an active ingredient which is a ‘NEW’ crystalline substance, a drug from the ‘palm plant’ similarly to ASPIRIN originating from the willow tree bark

    RESULTS:
    After 21 days on AMBUSH, ALL the individuals experienced a decrease in viral load to undetectable, an increase in cd4, increase in RBC, an improvement in general health such as more color to the face, decrease in Buffalo hump, an increase in gluteal muscles, a decrease to having no joint pains whereby individuals can bend to touch their toes, and walk up steps are but a few examples. There is also a dramatic increase in their sexual appetite beginning after the first week of therapy

    DISCUSSION:
    In any plant concoction such as percolated ‘tea’, there are 30-40,000 compounds, whi ch would take the scientific community twenty years to isolate one particular ingredient if they knew what they were looking for. The LORD GOD has given me seven steps to isolate the active ingredient, which is soft and metallic in nature and has a carbon- uranium-sulfur-(classified)-phentolamine configuration or structure. This is similar to Federick Kekule and the discovery of the benzene ring where he dreamt the structure.

    As an antiviral and ‘natural radioactivity’ producing agent, AMBUSH is also effective against leukemia, lupus and HPV. Here I am saying that I have ‘GIVEN’ AMBUSH in the same ‘strength’ and dosage to patients with leukemia, lupus and HPV. A 35 year old male with HIV found it difficult to impossible to urinate was put on ‘green tea’ and water while the doctors contemplated prostrate surgery. One of the doctors gave him my number , I sent him a supply of AMBUSH an d he has not been given any more ARV’s, since taking AMBUSH 18 months ago, is in ‘good’ health and has expressed a willingness to be examined by HIV investigators like many others who have taken AMBUSH.

    I have sent this ‘IDEA’ to most HIV research agencies, scientist of the field, universities, hospitals, clinics, politicians and news agencies to which it is REJECTED because the name of THE LORD GOD is mentioned. He has steered me scientifically through the processes such as which plant and how to produce the active ingredient. What are the odds of a Florida Pharmacist picking a plant would contain the CURE for HIV/AIDS ?
    I have never charged any of the people for their supply of AMBUSH but a life saving has been spent on the project with NO renumeration from any sources because AMBUSH falls outside the walls of modern medicine and research.

    PROPOSAL:

    My proposal is that I PROVE that AMBUSH CURES HIV/AIDS by giving it to a number of END-STAGE or DRUG-RESISTANT people and the scientific community watches their recovery. This proposal addresses the problem in that I have already outlaid the results to be obtained.

    This IDEA is unconventional in that the scientific community has rejected AMBUSH because I say it is GOD given. Secondly if I wrote it according to certain standards, then it might be peer reviewed. However, THE LORD GOD has also shown me that there are five enzyme systems associated with the virus, reverse transcriptase, protease, fusion and two more of which causes the virus to be AIRBOURNE. This means that without DIVINE intervention mankind and ALL warm- blooded mammals will be extinct in a number of years.

    The PROOF of what I am saying is found in scientific papers wherein it is found that when the protease cuts the viral strands, it cuts it at DIFFERENT lengths EVERY time, to which it should always be a valine at the end but is a different amino acid every time. This is why it is IMPOSSIBLE to produce a VACCINE.

    Since this is NOT a hypothesis but there are about 400 individuals who have taken AMBUSH, here lies a vast area in which to check, recheck and confirm that AMBUSH CURES AIDS. Let it be mentioned that during the HIV reproductive cycle, reverse transcriptase converts viral RNA into DNA compatible to human genetic materials. Thus the human DNA has been ‘hijacked’ and since each person has a DIFFERENT DNA, then the new viral copy is unique to that person which shows that each individual has a DIFFERENT STRAIN of the virus. Consider two HIV positive people swapping viral strains and increasing its complexity with multiple partners.
    It can also be proposed that they be revisited as proof that the strain or strains that they had were ‘killed’ at the time of taking AMBUSH considering that a person can catch as many different strains as there are people who are infected by HIV.
    I am also willing to work with the scientific community in identifying those individuals who took AMBUSH and wish to be identified with this process notwithstanding that some are stigmatized while others are jubilant,

    Once AMBUSH is verified as being able to accomplish that which is aforementioned then the next stage might be the natural and artificial synthesis of the substance.

    Finally, if this is accepted or not, believed or not, THE LORD GOD always wins and this is the heavenly truth to which AMBUSH was divinely given to mankind for the CURE of HIV/AIDS and it will be here forever. Apostle Shada Mishe.

    apostleshadamishe@gmail.com

    Here is a video taped presentation that I gave at t he Martin Luther King library in Washington

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V53D1w__Po
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPwuwlVBOV0

  18. Thank you very much

    blu ray porn

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