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Old 08-20-2022, 04:15 AM   #1
scc
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Default [Bio-Tech] Human Genetic Engineering When?

So I'm working through some stuff for a possible Space campaign and the backstory involves an manned interstellar mission to Alpha Centauri launching some time this century. The crew for this mission have will be gene-engineered with at least Longevity, Hibernation, and No Degeneration in Zero-G. What's the earliest that this could likely to spliced into a human genome?
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Old 08-20-2022, 05:29 AM   #2
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Default Re: [Bio-Tech] Human Genetic Engineering When?

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So I'm working through some stuff for a possible Space campaign and the backstory involves an manned interstellar mission to Alpha Centauri launching some time this century. The crew for this mission have will be gene-engineered with at least Longevity, Hibernation, and No Degeneration in Zero-G. What's the earliest that this could likely to spliced into a human genome?
We don't know?

On one hand, we have gene splicing now, and it can be used with human cells for experimental purposes—that's in tissue cultures, not in fertilized ova. It could be argued that it's only ethical restrictions that have prevented its use on human beings.

On the other, though, would you want to count on the spliced traits working the way they're meant to? Or would you want to test them? It might take fifty years or so to make sure that your Longevity tweak really gave Longevity and not, say, sudden heart failure in middle age. Human beings have quite a long design-test cycle.
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Old 08-20-2022, 06:27 AM   #3
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On one hand, we have gene splicing now, and it can be used with human cells for experimental purposes—that's in tissue cultures, not in fertilized ova. It could be argued that it's only ethical restrictions that have prevented its use on human beings.
In 2019, there was a case where a Chinese doctor "gene edited" three babies in utero to allegedly make them immune to HIV. The experiment "worked" in that the children appeared to be normal, but because of really bad experiment design, it's unknown what genetic effects they'll suffer as they grow up. Not surprisingly, the doctor was jailed for massive ethical violations.

The bigger issue is that, AFAIK, science hasn't yet isolated the gene(s) responsible for hibernation in animals, nor have they created a means of overcoming bone loss and other problems in Zero-G. Some of the genes associated with longevity have been identified, but the who topic of lifespan extension is complicated, with many different genes playing a role. Some are actual longevity genes, others are genes which play a role in diseases of age such as atheroschlerosis or cancer.

Of course, because nobody's really looked that closely at gene-hacks, or other means, to overcome zero-G bone degeneration, it might be a simple problem to solve. One possibility to to tweak the genes responsible for Paget's Disease or Proteus Syndrome. That could create people who can only function normally in Zero-G, however, and would suffer painful and debilitating bone overgrowth in normal gravity. Hibernation might also be easy to solve if it's possible to somehow adapt the mammalian diving reflex. Longevity might be partially solvable with strict diet and exercise regimens, along with figuring out the reasons for lifespan extension due to calorie restriction.

Assuming continued improvements in gene-editing and computer modeling technology, and massive amounts of money being thrown at the project to create humans who can survive a generation ship trip to Alpha Centauri, a really stupid wild guess might be 20-30 years. A more conservative really stupid guess, assuming well-funded programs to adapt humans to space, but not a massive global effort, might by 40-60 years.

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Old 08-20-2022, 09:31 AM   #4
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Default Re: [Bio-Tech] Human Genetic Engineering When?

If you're supposing people being behind a mission to Alpha Centaury in this century, I think you've already accelerated things so much you can just make up a date you want for the gene engineering.
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Old 08-20-2022, 09:59 AM   #5
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Default Re: [Bio-Tech] Human Genetic Engineering When?

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So I'm working through some stuff for a possible Space campaign and the backstory involves an manned interstellar mission to Alpha Centauri launching some time this century. The crew for this mission have will be gene-engineered with at least Longevity, Hibernation, and No Degeneration in Zero-G. What's the earliest that this could likely to spliced into a human genome?
We don't currently have a detailed understanding of the genetics of lifespan, or of zero-G syndrome, still less hibernation (which only happens in species that are not closely related to humanity). Providing these abilities is likely to involve major changes to human biology and biochemistry.

If you want this to be possible in the next 78 years, with some degree of plausibility, you need your future history to have a huge breakthrough in the understanding of genetics and animal development. That needs to include a complete understanding of proteins and their reactions, and many other things. Modifying creatures needs to become about as easy as designing metal alloys is now.

That's a level where it still isn't easy, but there is solid knowledge of the limits of what's practical and the reasons why, and the plausible routes towards any given objective are clear to a skilled engineer. You then need a few decades of successful use of these methods on animals, with very few failures, before anyone will let you start upgrading humans.

We are at about the point where if someone was to have fundamental insights, leading to the necessary breakthrough, the ideas could be tested and developed. It seems quite implausible that there could be a unifying idea that would lead to such insights, but this is normal before breakthroughs, and doesn't tell us much about the actual possibility of one occurring.

One route that will not be plausible in the near future is "AI." The currently-hot styles of AI are good at extracting correlations from noisy data, but they don't provide explanations or reasons.
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Old 08-20-2022, 10:32 AM   #6
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One route that will not be plausible in the near future is "AI." The currently-hot styles of AI are good at extracting correlations from noisy data, but they don't provide explanations or reasons.
I kind of wonder whether a crew of AI would be a better prediction. (Probably not, as I'm bad at this.)
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Old 08-20-2022, 10:42 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Bio-Tech] Human Genetic Engineering When?

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If you want this to be possible in the next 78 years, with some degree of plausibility, you need your future history to have a huge breakthrough in the understanding of genetics and animal development. That needs to include a complete understanding of proteins and their reactions, and many other things. Modifying creatures needs to become about as easy as designing metal alloys is now.
One way to get to this might be to postulate a radical advance in quantum computing. As I understand it, with quantum computation, you don't have to try out one path at a time to a solution; you can take all the paths at once and jump to the optimum. That sounds like just what would be needed to address the problems of developmental pathways and protein structure, letting you go straight to a good point in fitness space. At least it could give you a plausible handwave.

Of course, if you have that level of capability, you also have, for example, vastly more powerful codebreaking, as in David Brin's The Transparent Society. That should be taken into account in addressing the social milieu.
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Old 08-20-2022, 11:14 AM   #8
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I kind of wonder whether a crew of AI would be a better prediction. (Probably not, as I'm bad at this.)
A ship run by a single "A.I." (and probably one with little or no social ability or penchant for introspection) is as likely as anything. It's "A.I" as artificial software people that's hard to predict because few if any people seriously involved in computer development want or even have a use for such things

scc has a similar problem with his human modificatons. Longevity would be on my list of early adoption traits for human genetic mods but the others not so much. If nobody really rich and connected wants (and is willing and able to pay for) such things nobody will even be working on them.
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Old 08-20-2022, 12:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Bio-Tech] Human Genetic Engineering When?

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If you're supposing people being behind a mission to Alpha Centaury in this century, I think you've already accelerated things so much you can just make up a date you want for the gene engineering.
You could also go with an alternate history - have us start advancing more rapidly in genetics (possibly with fewer restrictions in play) back around 2000 and having a genegineered crew heading to Alpha Centauri during the 21st Century is easier to justify.
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Old 08-21-2022, 03:40 AM   #10
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If the campaign is going to happen at the other end and you just need background for the ship Forward had an amusing variant. A drug that slows human aging a lot so intersteller travel is possible. It also slows human brains so that during the trip the people are idiots that need to be kept away from the controls by caregiver robots.
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