Yesterday I blogged about what I suspect will become a major "meme" in the push to get people to voluntarily surrender their genetic information: "precision medicine." As I pointed out yesterday, a new government program is seeking a million volunteers for the study which will cross-correlate individual's genetic information with their health history, lifestyle, and so on, in order to create a new kind of medicine - "precision medicine" - which will avoid the "one size fits all" approach.
As I speculated yesterday, while all of this sounds good and plausible, there may be a very dangerous downside, namely, the development of precision beioweapons, i.e., not bioweapons that target a particular race or even "clan haplogroup" (if I may so speak), but even more precise types of bioweapons that could target specific families, or even specific individuals. As I pointed out, the idea has already made an appearance in fiction, with the television series Blacklist (James Spader and Megan Boone) and the end of its second season. With "precision medicine," I fear we're being given the public "fluff" explanation to sell the idea, and to begin to gather the DNA database to make the latter possibility draw closer to reality.
With that in mind, consider the abstract to this paper that was discovered and shared by Mr. B.G., regarding the curious discovery of a new type of genetic structure, the so-called "I motif" which I blogged about on this site recently (I should point out, I am really concerned here with only one statement in the abstract):
Now, I should confess that I haven't the money to purchase a pdf copy of the full paper to every interesting scientific abstract that people share, but with this one I was tempted. But I refrained, because I suspect that this one statement is sufficient to the purpose of today's high octane speculation. Recall that those i-motif four-stranded knots of DNA appear to be some sort of genetic regulatory structure in cells, according to the best contemporary thinking. They thus appear and disappear under certain conditions, in this case, the pH levels of cells. With that in mind, and with my speculations from yesterday about the darker uses of "precision medicine" in mind, consider this statement from the abstract:
By virtue of their pH dependent folding, i-motif forming DNA sequences have been used extensively as pH switches for applications in nanotechnology.
Now again, I'm no scientist of any sort, and certainly I'm far removed from being any sort of geneticist or biological engineer, but it strikes me - as it struck Mr. B.G. in his original email bringing this paper to my attention - that not only is this a potential delivery mechanism for "precision medicine" but also for the sorts of narrowing target-specificity for bio-warfare that I was entertaining in yesterday's blog. On the positive side, imagine being able to deliver nanobots to repair damaged cells (or for that matter, to target diseased cells), based on the local pH conditions of the body, or based on some other biological marker of ill-health. Similarly, however, it could be used to deliver to a mass population, a bioweapon that would and could only be activated by a specific set of programmable parameters, for a clan, a family, an individual.
The bottom line? I suspect that when Mr. B.G. read my blog about the i-motif, and noticed this paper and alluded to these possibilities in his email, that he is on to something.
See you on the flip side...
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