where are designer babies from altered gametes? at least for small mammals?

I looked on Wikipedia, but the whole article is a load of “bioethicist” drivel without a shred of factual scientific info. It also seems to imply that the main or only way to alter characteristics of offspring is to select embryos and discard ones we don’t like.

How about modifications to the DNA inside gametes before in vitro fertilization? E.g. if biologists periodically announce how they have isolated this or that gene (let’s say gene that controls shortening of telomeres which controls lifespan) why haven’t they tried inserting this kind of genes into gametes of parents that don’t have them in order to create an organism that’s still child of the parents but with a few new genes thrown in? Can something like that be done for insects or small mammals for a start?

If you are simply talking about inserting a novel gene or 2, of course it can be done with insect sand small mammals. We do this routinely in my lab all the time with fruitflies and and other insects. Most large Universities have core facilities to make genetically-modified mice.

There are companies that will make you genetically-modified fruitfly strains for about $200 dollars - Bestgene is the company we commonly use - send them the gene you want to insert (as purified DNA) and they mail you back the genetically-modified flies in a couple of weeks.

If you are not good at molecular biology and can’t make the gene yourself, just have it artificially synthesized! MrGene is the company we usually use for gene synthesis. You input the nucleotide sequence of the gene and give them a credit card number, they chemically make it and send you back the pure DNA in lyophilized form - you can send this to BestGene and get your flies.

Yes kids, you too can make genetically modified organisms over the internet! All it costs is some time and a couple thousand dollars. When (if) I ever have kids their science fair projects are going to RULE.


so given what you said above, what is holding back creation of “super-power”, so to speak, mutants for animals? Is it a matter of all interesting traits being polygenetic and scientists not really knowing all the genes involved?

Incidentally, how about plants? E.g. why can’t we have all our major food crops incorporate some strong alkaloid poison into their leaves but not grains to so that all the insect pests would be killed off during the first meal? I guess, my question is, what are the limits to what we can and cannot do now when producing GMOs?

What, glowing green or red eyes isn’t enough of a super power for you?

Seriously, I think you read too many comic books. We are usually interested in the effect of a certain gene, or as is often in our case, not the gene per say but the gene regulatory region (or promoter) - this is the sequence before the gene that controls where and when its turned on. We are studying various promoter regions in other insects and the easiest way to see what they do is to use the sequence to turn on green fluorescent protein, stick it into a fruitfly and see if the green glow shows up where and when we expect it to.

The short answer is that our goals are usually a bit more prosaic that what you read in the Enquirer.

Bt corn anyone?

Normally, you don’t genetically modify the gametes, but rather the early embryo (aka embryonic stem cells). This way you can amplify, test and select the modified cells to ensure that the genetic modification has been introduced correctly. You could not do this with haploid gametes. The modified stem cells are then be introduced into an early embryo, from which a chimeric transgenic animal is derived, and which, if its ovaries/testes have developed from the modified cells, can be bred to get fully transgenic animals in the second generation.
Alternatively you could replace the nucleus of a fertilized egg by the nucleus of the modified stem cell to get a fully transgenic animal already in the first generation.

Actually, transgenic modifications have also been introduced in larger mammals (Cows, goats) to make them produce pharmaceutically interesting proteins in their milk.
There are also experiments being done on producing oral vaccines in transgenic plants (banana)

We’re also not at the point where we can just create genes for things, so generally a gene has to already exist for us to use it. Trying to alter protein chemistry for a specific result is exceedingly complicated.

So, until we discover a set of proteins and thus, a set of genes, that lets you shoot lasers out of your eyes, you’re out of luck.

Actually, some progress has been made in that area.

Actually, to make transgenic Drosophila (and other insects) you are modifying the gametes. You inject the DNA into the “posterior pole” of the embryo (newly laid egg) because this is the region where the gametes form. You rear up the injected egg into an adult, who looks normal but who hopefully has modified sperm or eggs. You mate them and screen the offspring for transgenic individuals.