The Future of Biotechnology: Building a Real Jurassic World

The Future of Biotechnology: Building a Real Jurassic World

By Aki Ueda

Let’s be honest- we all love dinosaurs. There’s something about those ancient creatures, towering and ferocious or quick and sharp-toothed, that fascinates the human imagination. Perhaps it’s because the only information that remains of them is their diminutive bird descendants and a mysterious collection of fossilized bones and footprints.

As for the thought of humans actually co-existing with dinosaurs… that is complete science fiction, isn’t it?

Sure, but perhaps only for the moment. A glance back at some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs will quickly remind us that every single one was also “science fiction”, right up until the moment it became a “science fact”.

Our human history is full of such milestones. Before the structure of DNA was published in 1953, we lacked a precise understanding of the fundamental building blocks that encode all the life within us. Fast forward to today, where complete genomes for a number of species have been sequenced and next-generation sequencing techniques have enabled us to read a person’s gene transcriptome. Previously unimaginable tasks, like detecting a solid tumor using the circulating nucleic acid present in a pinprick of blood, have been successfully accomplished.

What about those humble X-rays that are used to visualize tumors and broken bones? This too was complete science fiction until they were debuted in 1901. HIV/AIDS, once a death sentence, is now potentially manageable for a large percentage of sufferers, and hopefully, within our lifetime, completely curable. Scientists can now 3-D print prosthetic arms with bionic capabilities, controlled by the power of the owner’s thoughts – yet another classic science fiction scene!

The future is always fiction until scientists make it reality.

And so, what is the future of biotechnology and genetic engineering? There is a growing number of scientists that believe it can be used to create or re-create new types of life. And yes, that includes dinosaurs. Jack Horner, the scientific consultant and inspiration for the Jurassic Park franchise, recently declared that living dinosaurs would be possible within the next ten years.

Jack Horner is a bit eccentric, but he’s not alone in this current quest. Researchers at Harvard and Yale have found a way to de-evolve parts of the chicken, turning the bird’s beak into a snout reminiscent of its dino-ancestors. Legendary geneticist George Church is seeking to bring the woolly mammoth and other species back from recent extinction using a novel gene editing technique to salvage preserved DNA.

And no, these aren’t mad scientists who are only seeking to bring about living dinosaurs and monster reptiles. The genomics and bioengineering techniques being developed also have the real potential to reverse heritable diseases, cure cancers before they even start, and otherwise revolutionize not only medicine but also countless other disciplines.

So take a lunch break, and get enlightened about the revolutionary biotechnologies that are poised to change the world within our lifetimes presented by three bright minds from our Global Scholar team, representatives of our scientific future.

Webinar link

For more information about our PreScouter Global Scholars Program: www.prescouter.org
For questions/additional information: contact Aki Ueda, aueda@prescouter.com

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