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Bearded One
2009-Oct-06, 12:02 AM
This is more of a biology issue but I'm not on any good biology boards so I'll post it here. I've often wondered about the viability of a human being born entirely separated from our ecology. Basically, say we send our genome out to the stars and some race manages to create the equivalent of a fertilized egg and tries to grow a human being.

They will have loads of information on the physical environment that they will need to provide. They can provide a proper atmosphere, water with sufficient chemical constituents and proper temperature and humidity. They will be able to provide it all except other organisms. No symbiotic bacteria or anything else that has a genetic code. No bacteria or viruses.

They created a human sperm and egg and got them to tango. They have a great artificial womb and on Earth their creation would most likely produce a healthy human. They have also totally isolated their own biosphere, so there is no danger or advantage there.

They have no other genetic information other than the human genome. No bacteria, no viruses. They can provide food only as long as that food is purely chemical in nature.

How long would the (pre) baby last?

DrWho
2009-Oct-06, 04:09 AM
The baby should survive ok. The lack of (beneficial) bacteria might be a problem as normally there are at least ten times as many bacterial cells as human cells in the body, many of which are used to aid digestion. If the individual was fed chemically, then a lack of digestive bacteria may not be an issue. However, if this individual were to come in contact with a 'normal' environment, they may struggle as their immune system wouldn't be very developed and so they would be prone to infections which may result in death if severe enough.

ravens_cry
2009-Oct-06, 04:20 AM
I think scientists do something like this when they raise test animals in a complete absence of pathogens. I think there is a technical term for this, but it eludes me at the moment.

DrWho
2009-Oct-06, 04:26 AM
I think scientists do something like this when they raise test animals in a complete absence of pathogens. I think there is a technical term for this, but it eludes me at the moment.
Bubble boy. :)

ford1
2009-Oct-06, 05:22 AM
Hi to every one

clint
2009-Oct-06, 08:20 AM
Wow, that was fast ban. Respect! :D

Neverfly
2009-Oct-06, 10:28 AM
Wow, that was fast ban. Respect! :D

Well, the rules are quite clear:

At no time and under no circumstances may any member simultaneously greet everyone at the same time. This is a perma-bannable offense.

Nick Theodorakis
2009-Oct-06, 12:05 PM
My guess is it would most likely live, but without a cultural milieu to grow into, it wouldn't resemble anything that we would call "human."

Nick

Neverfly
2009-Oct-06, 01:26 PM
My guess is it would most likely live, but without a cultural milieu to grow into, it wouldn't resemble anything that we would call "human."

Nick

why not?
It may be a strange person, but a person nonetheless. Much of our behavior and attitudes, even, are genetically encoded.

DrWho
2009-Oct-06, 02:24 PM
Much of our behavior and attitudes, even, are genetically encoded.
Care to list three of each?

Nick Theodorakis
2009-Oct-06, 03:10 PM
why not?
It may be a strange person, but a person nonetheless. Much of our behavior and attitudes, even, are genetically encoded.

It may seem odd that I would argue the other side, since I am by education, training, and profession a molecular biologist, but there are limits to what genes can do, and they don't work in isolation.

Nick

Neverfly
2009-Oct-06, 04:50 PM
It may seem odd that I would argue the other side, since I am by education, training, and profession a molecular biologist, but there are limits to what genes can do, and they don't work in isolation.

Nick

Isolation of what?

The OP made it clear that the child is not exposed to other organic things/living things.

It does not cover whether the child is exposed to any viewing of recordings, etc.
But even if only exposed to alien voices and recordings, it would still respond to them with human emotions, attitudes and behaviors.

ravens_cry
2009-Oct-06, 05:24 PM
The trouble is, I don't think our present day ethics and morals would allow us, despite what could be learned, to raise a feral child on purpose for scientific study.

Barabino
2009-Oct-06, 08:58 PM
They have no other genetic information other than the human genome. No bacteria, no viruses. They can provide food only as long as that food is purely chemical in nature.

How long would the (pre) baby last?

I guess just a few days...

many sugars have a molecular structure that is anti-clockwise and their clockwise mirror images are poisonous...

if you create them using inorganic chemistry, you'll get 50% anti-clockwise molecules and 50% clockwise... no good... :-(

Neverfly
2009-Oct-06, 09:14 PM
Clockwise?

eburacum45
2009-Oct-06, 10:19 PM
Yes; many organic chemicals have a 'handedness' which allows them to exist in two different forms, left-handed or right-handed, but otherwise chemically identical. Another way of looking at their structure is to imagine them as constructed in a clockwise or anticlockwise fashion.

Any food-synthesis system that can't tell the difference between left- and right-handed molecules isn't really worth making.

Back to the original post, it would be very desirable for a population of gut bacteria to accompany the colonists, if they are shipped in gamete or zygote form, or as DNA alone. You could probably freeze the bacteria, or take their DNA along too. If you weren't allowed to take bacteria, you'd better take an artificial substitute- bacteria-sized nanobots, for instance.

That might prevent unwanted mutations occurring in the bacterial population - since the colonists would have no exposure to disease they might not be able to resist a mutated enteric bacterial strain.

Bearded One
2009-Oct-06, 10:24 PM
These aren't the answers I was expecting. I've been suspecting that it wouldn't survive long, possibly not even to "birth". Even bubble babies get an infusion of bacteria and viruses from the mother. I've been wondering exactly how dependant we are on symbiotic relationships with other life forms that are not encoded within our own DNA. My biology is pretty weak, which is why I threw the question out in the first place.

It would be an interesting experiment to perform. We don't need to use humans for the experiment, almost any higher animal would do although I would prefer a mammal. Maybe a cow? We seem to have few reservations about killing them.

Re-iterating my original point, nothing else that has a genetic code can be provided. The human genome would be the only genetic code provided.

eburacum45
2009-Oct-06, 10:46 PM
I appreciate that this is a thought-experiment, but unless the child has some enteric bacteria (or an artificial substitute, such as nanobots, which do the same job), it won't thrive. Apparently it is possible for humans to live without gut flora,* but these microorganisms do give great benefits.

I don't think we rely on viruses to any extent, however, or that any other kind of bacteria apart from gut bacteria are essential. But I very well could be wrong.

* according to this abstract (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T75-4F9JB4T-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=612cabae14e82c9973a8dd89f2930a67)
Although many animals including humans can live without gut flora, it is beneficial for the growth and protection of the host against pathogens.

Perhaps if by pathogens they mean bacterial diseases, then removal of all bacteria from such a colony would make that unnecessary.

ravens_cry
2009-Oct-07, 12:29 AM
Well, if he is in an alien enviroment, what pathogens are going to affect him anyway? It is quite possible any alien critters aren't going to affect him as they evolved to affect quite different hosts.

tdvance
2009-Oct-07, 02:21 AM
This is more of a biology issue but I'm not on any good biology boards so I'll post it here. I've often wondered about the viability of a human being born entirely separated from our ecology. Basically, say we send our genome out to the stars and some race manages to create the equivalent of a fertilized egg and tries to grow a human being.

They will have loads of information on the physical environment that they will need to provide. They can provide a proper atmosphere, water with sufficient chemical constituents and proper temperature and humidity. They will be able to provide it all except other organisms. No symbiotic bacteria or anything else that has a genetic code. No bacteria or viruses.

They created a human sperm and egg and got them to tango. They have a great artificial womb and on Earth their creation would most likely produce a healthy human. They have also totally isolated their own biosphere, so there is no danger or advantage there.

They have no other genetic information other than the human genome. No bacteria, no viruses. They can provide food only as long as that food is purely chemical in nature.

How long would the (pre) baby last?

I expect a "micro-ecosystem" has to be sent along. Either that, or the humans are permanently attached to some kind of machine (or are filled with nano-machines) that make up for the lack of ecosystem.

The artificial womb is very nontrivial. After all, it is unlikely a human baby would develop properly in a gorilla womb or vice-versa, and they share an awful lot of genes with us. I suspect some of the microorganisms have something to do with development in the womb as well, so that has to either be present, or simulated with machinery.

Obviously, it can theoretically be done, since it works naturally on Earth. It will be a long time before we are capable of doing it in practice, though. It is possible it is too complex to actually learn to do within, say, the time it takes humans to evolve into something completely different (or it might even be easier to force-evolve humans into something more amenable to space-faring--after all, it only took a few thousand years to turn ravenous wolves into Man's Best Friend).

aastrotech
2009-Oct-07, 03:53 AM
It wouldn't live long beyond the initial conception without mitochodria.

Jens
2009-Oct-07, 05:12 AM
I think that mitochondria would be an exception to this, because we create them ourselves. We don't need to get them from food.

And about the chirality, I think we have to assume that the scientists would be able to create a chiral mixture so that the baby would not be poisoned.

So basically, the baby is born and is fed a bacterialess mixture of food that is still edible. Basically a sort of formula feeding with proper vitamins and calories. Would the baby be OK? By own "gut" feeling is that it would be.

Barabino
2009-Oct-07, 05:13 AM
Yes; many organic chemicals have a 'handedness' which allows them to exist in two different forms, left-handed or right-handed, but otherwise chemically identical. Another way of looking at their structure is to imagine them as constructed in a clockwise or anticlockwise fashion.



Yes, left-handed or right-handed is the correct word;
clockwise and anticlockwise is a mistake of mine

you got the concept anyway. :-)

eburacum45
2009-Oct-07, 09:42 AM
The artificial womb is very nontrivial. After all, it is unlikely a human baby would develop properly in a gorilla womb or vice-versa, and they share an awful lot of genes with us. I suspect some of the microorganisms have something to do with development in the womb as well, so that has to either be present, or simulated with machinery.

The effects that the prenatal environment has on the fetus are very important and subtle, which s why the design of an artificial womb would need to be very sophisticated. Levels of nutrition and hormones in the womb can have profound epigenetic effects, I'm sure. But I'm still not convinced that it necessary to introduce microorganisms into the prenatal environment, unless it is to pre-condition the fetus to the effect of the near-essential gut flora. Create an artificial, non-mutating substitute for gut flora and the new colony could exist entirely without micro-organisms.

I'm not recommending this as a strategy, of course; the first time they make contact with humans from other colonies who have not been raised in sterile conditions they will be wiped out by infection.

aastrotech
2009-Oct-07, 10:12 AM
I think that mitochondria would be an exception to this, because we create them ourselves. We don't need to get them from food.


No, we don't create mitochndria ourselves. They are seperate life forms with a seperate DNA living in symbiosis in our cells. We get them in the mother's egg but not as part of her DNA. Mitochondria are non human cells living in symbiosis within our cells like E. coli are non human cells living in symbiosis with our bodies in our gut.

eburacum45
2009-Oct-07, 03:24 PM
Calling mitochondria separate lifeforms is a little of a stretch. No mitochondria can live outside of a cell; almost all cellular organisms have them. They may have been separate organisms billions of years ago, but they aren't now.

aastrotech
2009-Oct-07, 10:15 PM
Calling mitochondria separate lifeforms is a little of a stretch. No mitochondria can live outside of a cell; almost all cellular organisms have them. They may have been separate organisms billions of years ago, but they aren't now.

Well they are seperate life forms. Human DNA doen't contain instructions on how to construct mitochondria. Human DNA does not include mitochondrial DNA. It's as simple as that. The OP stated that human DNA and no further biosphere instructions are included. You cannot construct mitochodria from human DNA because human DNA does not contain the DNA of mitochondria.

Bearded One
2009-Oct-08, 01:13 AM
Well they are seperate life forms. Human DNA doen't contain instructions on how to construct mitochondria. Human DNA does not include mitochondrial DNA. It's as simple as that. The OP stated that human DNA and no further biosphere instructions are included. You cannot construct mitochodria from human DNA because human DNA does not contain the DNA of mitochondria.Yes and that's the type of stuff I was looking for.

As I stated, my biology is weak so I'm not sure how much of what I was thinking is crank science or not. Things such as retro viruses affecting our development is one category. I'm not sure how much we are dependent on rogue viral type genetic code. It's not part of our genome but we developed along side it for our whole existence. Bacteria exist not only in our guts but also through out much of our body. Our skin contains many bacteria that are helpful to our existence, at least according to some casual science stories I've read. The mother provides much of the needed material while the baby is still in the womb.

I've been starting to suspect that we are much more of a colony creature than we may realize. I suspect that trying to "build" a human being from just the human genome will be a total failure without all the accompanying baggage that we have developed along side of for so long.

For the purposes of this thought experiment we can consider that the "researchers" will be able to properly duplicate any non genetic based materials exactly so things such as handiness would not matter.

I'm not sure how to handle things like hormones and pheromones. I don't believe they are genetic in nature but they are secreted by things that are.

What is a man without the scent of a woman? :lol:

Murphy
2009-Oct-08, 01:15 AM
I'd have to agree with aastrotech there, Mitochondria are indeed separate lifeforms, of-course they can no longer live outside our cells, but then we can no longer live without them in our cells, so are we also not really a lifeform? It would indeed be impossible to create even one living Human cell if all you had were the base DNA. You would need Mitochondria (or at least mitochondrial DNA), and possibly other things.

In fact I'm not even sure how you would go about making a cell from scratch with just raw DNA. How would you build the cell membrane and the ribosomes, etc? How would you create the Cellular machinery and organelles which are necessary for the DNA to work?

Jens
2009-Oct-08, 01:37 AM
No, we don't create mitochndria ourselves. They are seperate life forms with a seperate DNA living in symbiosis in our cells. We get them in the mother's egg but not as part of her DNA. Mitochondria are non human cells living in symbiosis within our cells like E. coli are non human cells living in symbiosis with our bodies in our gut.

Right, but the point I was trying to make is that once the baby is born, you don't have to keep giving it mitochondria to keep it alive. Because the thread is about whether a baby could be kept alive without the ecosystem. Are you saying that it would have to be fed mitochrondia to stay alive?

Bearded One
2009-Oct-08, 02:02 AM
Right, but the point I was trying to make is that once the baby is born, you don't have to keep giving it mitochondria to keep it alive. Because the thread is about whether a baby could be kept alive without the ecosystem. Are you saying that it would have to be fed mitochrondia to stay alive?Er, not just kept alive but develop properly in the first place. So whether or not it needs to be "fed" mitochondria on a continuos basis is not relevant. Simply needing an infusion in the beginning is enough to invalidate the purity of the experiment.

Jens
2009-Oct-08, 03:15 AM
Er, not just kept alive but develop properly in the first place. So whether or not it needs to be "fed" mitochondria on a continuos basis is not relevant. Simply needing an infusion in the beginning is enough to invalidate the purity of the experiment.

But the experiment involves artificial fertilization (with an egg and sperm, I presume) and an artificial womb. Wouldn't the baby get the mitochondria from the egg? Or would you have to infuse it?

Bearded One
2009-Oct-08, 03:44 AM
But the experiment involves artificial fertilization (with an egg and sperm, I presume) and an artificial womb. Wouldn't the baby get the mitochondria from the egg? Or would you have to infuse it?Everything can be simulated except that which has any kind of genetic code. Anything dependent on RNA or DNA has to be excluded. This would include things that may have their production encoded in human DNA but are derived later on after the being has developed to some point.

aastrotech
2009-Oct-08, 09:03 AM
But the experiment involves artificial fertilization (with an egg and sperm, I presume)

Then you presume wrong. The OP was about conception by the insertion of whole DNA into an (artificialy constructed) egg (cloning).


Wouldn't the baby get the mitochondria from the egg? Or would you have to infuse it?

Not if you didn't have mitochondrial DNA instructions to construct mitochondria. If you did construct mitochondria then you would have to infuse the egg with them. You wouldn't have to continue to infuse them as they would reproduce themselves by fission.

eburacum45
2009-Oct-08, 09:58 AM
You'd have to send the mDNA as well. But by itself DNA can't make an organism; it needs to be imbedded in a cell to do that. So unless the aliens can make some sort of basic living egg cell which will accept the synthesised DNA (and mDNA to make mitochondria) then they won't be able to make a human.

I think one day we will be able to do that; we don't know how to do it today. But unless the aliens also know how to do it we will have to send them instructions. If that is forbidden then the effort is futile.

Fred Hoyle wrote a story along these lines back in the Sixties
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_for_Andromeda
but it is the humans who are tryiing to make the alien in that story.
Hoyle has them create a basic protoplasmic entity first, which takes on human form by absorbing human DNA.

Jens
2009-Oct-08, 02:41 PM
Then you presume wrong. The OP was about conception by the insertion of whole DNA into an (artificialy constructed) egg (cloning).


OK. Well in that case I think you're out of luck, because an egg can't divide without mitochondria. So if you rule out mitochondria, then the baby won't be born.

aastrotech
2009-Oct-08, 07:58 PM
OK. Well in that case I think you're out of luck, because an egg can't divide without mitochondria. So if you rule out mitochondria, then the baby won't be born.

I presume you're using the generic "you".

But yes I think you get the picture.

aastrotech
2009-Oct-08, 08:04 PM
On a related topic I heard of a company that will map your DNA and put it on a DVD for you. For an additional sum they will place your DNA data on a DVD with others and launch it into space. You can take the data from your own DVD and transmit it by radio yourself if you have a transmitter.

tdvance
2009-Oct-08, 08:29 PM
Then someday your clone will come back to haunt you?

DrWho
2009-Oct-08, 11:50 PM
On a related topic I heard of a company that will map your DNA and put it on a DVD for you. For an additional sum they will place your DNA data on a DVD with others and launch it into space. You can take the data from your own DVD and transmit it by radio yourself if you have a transmitter.
Some people will do anything for a buck. Then again, there's a rube born every minute.

aastrotech
2009-Oct-09, 02:14 AM
Some people will do anything for a buck. Then again, there's a rube born every minute.

I don't know... It makes a little more sense than just launching your ashes.

DrWho
2009-Oct-09, 02:43 AM
I don't know... It makes a little more sense than just launching your ashes.
How so?

aastrotech
2009-Oct-09, 06:17 AM
How so?

Well putting aside the possibility of aliens intercepting the DNA data and successfuly reconstructing a person.

As some have said our spacefaring technology may develop to be able to catch up with and intercept earlier spacecraft or even given FTL we could intercept a radio transmission. From that data our distant decendants could concievaly reconstruct a person from the data. No matter who intercepts ashes they probably won't be able to do much with them.

To hazard a guess as to why anyone would want to reconstruct a person from DNA, concievably, given some kind of mind transfer technology and its comensurate virtual immortality, a person could in the future retrive his own DNA and reconstruct his own long lost body.

DrWho
2009-Oct-09, 07:03 AM
Well putting aside the possibility of aliens intercepting the DNA data and successfuly reconstructing a person.

As some have said our spacefaring technology may develop to be able to catch up with and intercept earlier spacecraft or even given FTL we could intercept a radio transmission. From that data our distant decendants could concievaly reconstruct a person from the data. No matter who intercepts ashes they probably won't be able to do much with them.

To hazard a guess as to why anyone would want to reconstruct a person from DNA, concievably, given some kind of mind transfer technology and its comensurate virtual immortality, a person could in the future retrive his own DNA and reconstruct his own long lost body.
You do realise that genetic sequences performed today are nowhere near complete and so a perfect copy could never be made. But even if it was complete, and ignoring epigenetic variability, producing a replica body of yourself would not mean that you would live again. The fact that a company is charging money for this 'service', simply supports my proposition that it's a pointless exercise designed to fleece the gullible.

aastrotech
2009-Oct-10, 08:46 AM
You do realise that genetic sequences performed today are nowhere near complete and so a perfect copy could never be made. But even if it was complete, and ignoring epigenetic variability, producing a replica body of yourself would not mean that you would live again. The fact that a company is charging money for this 'service', simply supports my proposition that it's a pointless exercise designed to fleece the gullible.

No argument. But that wasn't the question I was answering. I still say it makes more sense than launching ashes. Not to say that launching ashes has no value at all. Personally I'm kind of happy Rodenberry got launched. It was worth every penny I paid for it.