Genetics is one of the scientific fields of greatest interest to science fiction. Examples of this are great movies like Jurassic Park or the Planet of the Apes. And it is that, without a doubt,the possibility of modifying DNA is one of the greatest advances in science.
DNA is a molecule present in all living things. Every organism, from bacteria to humans, has a different molecule of DNA on which all its characteristics and behavior are written. In addition, this information is collected in small units, the genes, which greatly simplifies their manipulation.
Genetic engineering has a wide field of application. It can be used, for example, for cure very serious diseases when they are caused by a defective gene. It also opens up the possibility, however, of conducting more controversial experiments such as cloning or creating a la carte babies. Today, to exemplify these possibilities, we are talking about a scientific group that has managed to create genetically modified flies capable of flying better and faster than the rest.
How is a super fly created through genetic engineering?
Scientists of theUniversity of Sussex and of the University of London have managed to manipulate a gene that regulates the shape of the fruit fly's wings or Drosophila melanogaster, widely used in genetic experiments. In his study, published in the magazine Nature Communications, they used a system that prevented the gene from expressing itself at the moment when the larvae formed their wings. The result was a subtle change in the morphology of these that resulted in an improvement in their flight capabilitieswhich even surprised the researchers.
To measure such improvement, scientists tested the flies' reaction to predators and other dangerous stimuli. The result was that the modified flies were able to Accelerate and decelerate 20-30% faster than normal. In addition, they had gained agility and maneuverability in flight, spinning much faster than control flies.
For these insects their new wings have, of course, some disadvantage. For example, that the energy required for flight is significantly greater. However, the researchers affirm that the additional energy cost is profitable if we consider the advantages that greater agility brings when it comes to escaping dangers.
The potential of genetic engineering
In this way, the group of researchers revealed two important factors. First of all, that it is possible accelerate the normal evolution of species. It seems quite likely that this genetic modification will bring advantages to fruit flies, so that if left free they will displace wild flies. For this reason, natural selection has been accelerated in thousands of years with the use of genetic engineering. Secondly, this experiment also makes clear to what extent an individual can be modified manipulating a particular region of your genetic code at the right time.
Fruit flies are widely used in genetics because of the extensive knowledge about their genetic code. It is true that that of human beings is rather more complex, and it may take decades to fully decode it. However, when this is achieved, the opportunities that opening human gene therapy will mark a before and after in our development as a species.
Source | Nature Communications