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Name: Joe
Status: Student
Grade:  9-12
Location: DE
Country: United States
Date: September 2005


Question:
My biology teacher showed us a video on mixing human DNA with animal DNA, but the only DNA that was mixed was protein producing DNA, so the animal produces human protein. My question is, is it possible to mix animal DNA (lets say feline, or a cat) with human DNA and the human will still live and grow, with normal functions, the only difference is that the human now has heightend senses, the abliity to run faster and jump higher and see well in the dark? Is this possible. Take spider man for example, is getting spider DNA mixed with ours and our body accepts it as its own instead of rejecting it, will that give us spider like abilites (with the exception of web shooting)? I'd really appreaciate it if my question was answered.



Replies:
It is only possible to combine a few genes worth of DNA from one species with the chromosomes of another species. The DNA's are not really mixed; multiple copies of one gene (produced by PCR) are injected into the fertilized of another species. A very small percentage of these eggs might develop into adult organisms that express this one new protein. So, in answer to your question, no, it would not be possible to produce a hybrid organism that would express many characteristics of both organisms.

Ron Baker, Ph.D.


This is actually a common question. First of all, think of all of the genes involved in "heightened senses" and "running and jumping" for example. There is no single gene for "running" and no single gene for "jumping". Most phenotypes are polygenic, in other words, the result of many genes. Not only that, but most traits are also multifactorial, in other words, they are the result of both genes and the environment. So, assuming we knew all the genes involved with running and jumping and could put them in the person in just the right places, what if the person is lazy and doesn't want to run and jump? When genetically engineering mammals, most of the time it is so that animal can produce a single type of protein- such as a blood clotting factor needed by hemophiliacs for example. It doesn't really change the phenotype of the animal-they probably don't even notice.

vanhoeck



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