JSKOL; Darwin’s Surprise Response Blog Post (One-Day Extension Pass)

Q: What did you find most surprising about the article? Explain.

A: I found it most interesting that not only were these viruses found as fragments in our DNA, but that we could piece them back together like a puzzle. The author describes it as “bringing it back to life”, but in all actuality this is false. Viruses do not meet all five criteria to be considered a living organism and are therefore not alive. Thus, they can not be brought back to life. However, the analogy still got the point across; the virus has been restored to its old self, allowing it to get back to doing what it does best. It was very interesting to see something we’ve only seen in the Jurassic Park and Frankenstein movies happen in real life, and causes you to wonder if they really are possible. Just as the mad scientist took once living pieces from people and made them into another being, scientist are taking fragments found in DNA and putting them together to recreate these viruses.

Despite how amazed I am by this, I am also very concerned on what this means for our future in science with viruses. Obviously, viruses do damage. They are not something our body necessarily enjoys, or has an easy time dealing with. Viruses are designed to bring distress to our body. If you think about it, some of the viruses found no longer exist. As stated in the reading, sometimes viruses are so effective that they affect everyone and eventually kill off their hosts; thus ending their own perpetuation. Perhaps this is a reason why some of these newly discovered viruses no longer exist. This leads me to believe they were very harmful and dangerous, and should not be brought back to life. All the viruses being reconstructed could be extremely dangerous, some more than others. For starters, the less recent viruses could be very different from the ones our bodies are used to fighting off today. If this is the case, we may not be able to protect ourselves from these reconstructed viruses and could wreak havoc for the human population and potentially other species. Our immune system functions on balance, and this could really tip the scale that our body relies on.
Looking at these potential threats and the fact that such information is being published to the public also causes a small part of me to panic. With all of today’s advancements in science, one of the world’s biggest concerns is bioterrorism. Bioterrorism is a war tactic in which a party releases toxic biological substances within an enemy population in order to sabotage them. Such a strategy is hard to escape, but also to control. If carried out correctly, it could affect millions within days. Hence, the problem with this new discovery of being able to reconstruct viruses from DNA. Not only can we recreate these viruses from their fragments, but we also have the potential to alter them; make them more aggressive, more resistant, easier to transmit, etc. Therefore, this newfound ability in the field of science really frightens me. The article itself said anyone could do it, even a couple of college kids with some DNA they purchased online. This could benefit our world so much as far as understanding viruses, finding vaccines, and learning about the evolution of our bodies. However, it could also bring just as much harm if it falls into the wrong hands!!

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