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Science

DNA Repositories? 18

Dixie_Flatline asks: "While I was riding into work today, an odd thought popped into my head. Do we have DNA repositories, a la Titan AE, or many other science fiction stories? Let's face it, we aren't being really nice to our environment, and we may be moving off this planet *some* day. Better to start a repository now while we still have things to make a repository of, right?" Interesting thought. What projects are under way to archive the DNA of animal species worldwide, especially those endanger of becoming extinct?
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Do We Have DNA Repositories?

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  • Would it be like a noahs ark kinda thing with only a male and female from each species, or would we need a greater genetic diversity.
    I would think do, because If you were to thaw these things out later on, we'd be screwed because they'd be cross-bred in one generation
  • A James P. Hogan book, I think the title is "Voyage from Yesteryear", involves a grow-colonists-at-destination ship. The first generation of children is raised by robots. The title of the book is due to the later arrival of a second ship, carrying Earth-born adults using newer technology which allowed the second ship to arrive within their lifetime. Interesting things happen between the established civilization from the first ship and the second group of adults who are used to the Earth which they grew up on.
  • There is at least one collection of old plant seeds. The term for that type of plant escapes me at the moment, but there are a few seed catalogs which carry a few such old strains.
  • One of the issues facing many areas of modern science is that the science evolves faster than the legal and ethical questions can be resolved. I would probably be reluctant to volunteer my DNA for such a repository until there are clear legal and ethacal standards detailing who would have the right to that infomration. Even then, I would only be willing to donate a specimen if I retained control over who was given access to that information.
  • Your typo is telling. Nice one.
  • As much as I try to find spelling and grammer mistakes before I post, I sometimes miss some. I'll look harder next time.

    Thanks.
  • I merely meant that "info" "ration" came to mind.
  • The ecologists have been doing sperm/egg samples for quite some time on the endangered species. Check with some of the bigger zoos about it, they should be able to steer you in the right direction.

    -- Crutcher --
    #include <disclaimer.h>
  • It's got little to do with moving off the planet, but the Repository for Germinal Choice [princeton.edu] is a DNA repository. They're the "genius sperm bank" out in California that was the focus of a lot of controversy when they began years ago. Forget germ-line engineering, they're improving folks the old fashioned way... breeding them with Nobel Prize laureates and Olympic champions.

    I know this because they keep hassling me for my sperm. ;-)

  • At this site is a list of repositories for plant germplasm: http://www.ars-grin.gov/npgs/rephomepgs.html . Most of it is for food type plants. I do remember seeing something recently about a group in England setting up a repository for plant seed and a mirror site in Scotland.
  • There's an intersting ambiguity in your question.

    Yes, 'hardware' gene banks exist, where the actual molecules are stored in solution for posterity. This isn't my area, but it looks like some other posts cover this.

    Also online are 'software' databases of the actual basepair sequence, mostly searchable via web, Xwindows interfaces, and often downloadable as SQL or other DBs. For instance, GenBank [nih.gov]has increasingly complete coverage of organisms ranging from Yeast through Fugu to Yo Mamma. I guess that sounds kinda bad.

    Of course, if you're interested in Yo or Any Mamma, or humans in general, you can download the current 'draft freeze' from the public Human Genome Project via UC Santa Cruz [ucsc.edu].

    Remember, when using the new GNU Genome Cross Compiler, to Save Early and Often...
  • Sounds almost exactly like Arthur C. Clarke's "Songs of Distant Earth".
  • And then there's "Rendezvous With Rama", and the ever-changing inside (Why am I avoiding spoilers after all this time?)
  • Do a web search for Heirloom Seeds and you'll find assorted collections of various old plant seeds. Some are commercial services and some are only trying to preserve the original genes.
  • Well, for $50 you can send your dried hair "DNA" on the Millenial Voyage [encounter2001.com] flight to Jupiter and beyond. Along with your words of wisdom on digital disk.
  • (psst.. I think you meant inbred not cross-bred).

    900 humans is the minimum. At least that's according to "Not Final!", a short story about a remote three-eyed surveyor who maps an antimatter cloud and then discovers Earth. As Earth is going to be destroyed in only a couple of years, there won't be time for enough ships to be built for enough humans to escape to preserve the species...but they hadn't even yet learned warp field technology, much less built ships.

    Somehow my memory remembers that (and the rest of the story) but not why I remember there was some factual basis for that number. I think there was annotation or explanation about it.

  • There is a worldwide network of "DNA repositories" for plants, set up to preserve genetic diversity. Different insitutions around the world have responsibility for different families of plants.

    Plants are much easier to bank in this way than animals, becuase:

    a) they produce seeds, which contain all the information required, and are nice and small.

    b) most seeds last for a long time.

    You can freeze about 80% of species' seeds (orthodox seeds), and they'll be good for about 15 years. After 15 years, you just defrost them, grow them, and collect the new seeds to re-freeze, for another 15 years. The problem lies in the other 20% of species (recalcitrant seeds), whose seeds you can't freeze. These are preserved by growing them, collecting the seeds, and growing those, in a continuous cycle.

    Preserving genetic diversity in this way is important, especially from the point of view of discovering new medicines, and genetic engineering.
  • I have frequently heard about some "bank" being set up, but have always wondered about the half-life of the samples. Usually I figure that the specimens will need to survive for over a century (anybody's guess how much over a century), and I've been quite uncertain that they would survive that long. DNA is rather fragile, as molecules go. I suppose that burying them on Pluto would work. Or maybe on some deep crater on the moon, that never gets exposed to sunlight. But that's a bit beyond our current capabilities, and down here things change so fast that something that can't get out of the way has to be considered endangered. Information has the possibility of multiple copies, however, so perhaps the best idea is to make copies on DVD's, and distribute them with a decoder that could read them as music.

Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.

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