Gene therapy and Bluntness [was CRYONICS: feasibility]

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Sun Feb 13 2000 - 20:20:34 MST

On Sun, 13 Feb 2000, Spike Jones wrote:

> > [Robert J. Bradbury sees] ... several other Extropian Knights whose
> > bluntness may even exceed mine own...
> Methinks not, Sir Bradbury. {8^D

Well, Spike, there are a few people on the list who will from time
to time exceed even my rather loose boundaries on diplomacy...
But hey, that just makes us a more exciting group... Why drink
caffeine when I can read the Extro list...

> Robert, during that E4 pitch of which I was absorbing practically nothing
> because of the fact that I know not diddly about genetic modification,
> you protested something the speaker proclaimed. While I recall
> vividly the event, I dont know enough about [germ line?] theory.

I'll summarize. Gene therapy is about:
 (a) deciding what gene you want to suppress, enhance or modify;
 (b) deciding in which organs you want to do that;
 (c) developing a delivery tool (usually a modified virus) to go
     to the specified organs/tissues and/or only express that gene
     in those organs, and have that expression on a long term basis;
 (d) have the gene expression produce the desired physiological result.
 (e) not break anything while you are doing this.

Greg and John have been informed by some of the leading researchers
in gene therapy that this is very hard (it is). However we have
examples, particularly in our immune system, where highly specific
genome modifications occur (so it isn't impossible). The meme
Greg and John were trying to "distribute" was "since its hard
lets forget about it and do something else" (namely develop a
good way to produce editable chromosomes in your bioengineered
children). That is fine and good and reasonable, however it doesn't
do diddledy-squat for me and that is what triggered my bluntness

> Please, could you give us, in ~100 words or less that a rocket
> guy could understand, what he said and what you said. Rather,
> what you said immediately following "THATS NOT TRUE!"
> That part I understood. {8^D spike

>From a rocket scientist point of view, just view it as a highly
complex orbital insertion maneuver where you have to anticipate
all of the problems up front, make sure you don't come in too
high or too low or accidentally do the whole routine around the
wrong asteroid. Complicating the game is the fact that your sensors
have about 1/100 of the resolution that you need to accomplish the mission
in a reliable fashion. An *interesting* comparative analysis would
be for successful rocket missions and gene therapies to date. I would
guess at this time, that gene therapies are running ahead of rocket
missions (at least in terms of not blowing up the launch pad) but
probably not by much.

If I recall correctly the actual trigger was someone in the audience
making a point that their approach didn't do them any good (they
understood the implications) and John pretty much agreed with them and
moved on to how the future could only be in engineering our children.
John's claim that I was objecting to had to do with the probability
that we would *never* solve the problems outlined above.

They certainly are difficult problems. But you know me well enough
to know the fine line I draw between the difficult and stuff that
involves magic physics. What Greg and John may not be aware of is
that the gene therapy trials for cancer probably outnumber by
several times those for "genetic defects" (baby in a bubble immune
system deficiencies, amino acid metabolism deficiencies, etc).
Many many more people die from cancer (due to mutated genes) than
are born with lifestyle-impacting defective genomes. If you kill
a patient with cancer in a gene therapy trial its much different
from killing a young man with a metabolism deficiency. The cancer
patient is facing a short-term death sentence in most cases.
Even a small chance of success with the cancer patient will justify
the development of the technology.

> PS regarding bluntness: dont change a thing Robert, we like you
> just the way you are.
I'm not always blunt. There is a suave, sophisticated, sincere,
sweet side, but its usually reserved for short haired bruenettes
of the opposite sex.


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