Monday, March 17, 2008

Glow in the Dark Snake (Part 2)

*FYI - If you are a grant proposal reviewer then yes, I have a 2009 GC Round 4 proposal submitted for review.
Part 2 – Sperm Mediated Chromosome Transfer (SMCT)

There are always questions to any hypothesis.

Can a cell handle an extra chromosome? Sure it can. Think about a person with Down’s syndrome – they have an extra chromosome 21 (in cases of trisomy) - the physiological problems they have aren’t due directly to the fact that the extra chromosome is present but because the genes on the extra chromosomal material are being expressed. This is why a Robertosonian Translocation elicits the same effect. The important thing to note is that almost every cell in their body (except the red blood cells etc.) has this extra copy which means that a cell definitely has the machinery to replicate and handle an extra chromosome. Plants actually have lots of B-chromosomes which are extra chromosomes. Even chickens have micro-chromosomes.

Telomeric sequences contain a lot of info – do you really need them? No. You could build a circular artificial chromosome and eliminate them completely. Now you just need the origin of replication, the centromere, and the gene that you want. Cool huh?

Who would fund something like this? For snakes you’d have to find private investors kind of like Genetic Savings and Clone who were doing cat cloning stuff. Cat cloning is really hard!! So what you’d do is grow snake fetal fibroblasts, harvest the cells at mitotic arrest, lyse the cells, sort the chromosomes, have someone take one of the chromosomes and build a cDNA library of it, put together the artificial chromosome (including your ‘glow in the dark’ gene), mix with sperm to the right ratio, then inseminate a gravid, pre-ovulatory snake. The cool thing is, if you did design this chromosome, you would most likely be able to put it into any snake species (their own sperm of course) since its cell protein complements should, evolutionarily, be very similar.

But to prove the overall concept you could start in chickens or turkeys for which there should be, though not necessarily, substantial interest from the poultry industry. For instance, you could design artificial chromosomes with genes for resistances to bacteria or Avian flu virus into chickens and even change them every couple generations or so to keep up with inherent pathogen mutation rates.
Part 1 Part 3
- Just a peasant

Photo of a human artificial chromosome from the lab of Dr. Gyula Hadlaczk in Hungary