ANTI-FREEZE FOR YOUR VEINS?
Two hundred years ago a suggestion that virulent diseases could be
eliminated with injections of a modified version of the disease
itself, would have classified you as a practitioner of witchcraft.
Yet in 1798 Dr. Edward Jenner proved his vaccine could prevent
small-pox. Today that dreaded disease is a rarity everywhere. Other
vaccines have been developed that have markedly reduced the incidence
of cholera, typhoid, tetanus, tuberculosis, polio, influenza and
Vaccine therapy works on the principle of stimulating the inherent
healing powers of the body to conquer infection by increasing
available anti-bodies to attack invading bacteria or viruses.
Since you don't get drowned today for practising witchcraft (even
after my two years experience in Haiti) I am going to state what
might have been even more dangerous back in the 1700s -- if they
could have even understood what I was talking about -- that some
day an injection that will be developed to prevent or delay the human
body from freezing in the cold. And, once injected the body will be
protected for life.
Here is why one I be so bold. Among the fish that can stay yearround in the supercold waters of the North Atlantic are two unique
species: the ocean pout and the winter flounder. These fish can stay
in water that is below freezing, although such cold is a sure killer
for all other fish. Even the hardy ocean salmon moves out when
temperatures approach the freezing level of 32 degrees F or 0 degrees
C. This dowdy flatfish has within that dull body an antifreeze
protein that lowers its blood's freezing temperature by retarding the
growth of ice-crystals!
With gene manipulation now occuring in laboratories around the
world it is just a matter of time until that thermal gene will be
transferrable to other living organisms. Memorial University's
Marine Sciences Research Laboratory high on a barren Atlantic oceanside cliff in Newfoundland (where I saw my first giant squid years
ago, pickled in formaldehyde) is blazing a trail.
Governments would never approve of it? Sorry. Six months ago
(January 1989) the U.S. Government gave scientists permission to
transfer foreign genes into human beings.!! Sure there are chances
being taken. But remember that someone in America is dying from
cancer every minute (485,000 last year) and they must risk taking
risks. Gene manipulation appears worthwhile.
But back to organic anti-freeze: In that Newfoundland laboratory,
scientist Arnie Sutterlin is currently working to make such a
development reality for local hard-pressed fishermen. He wants to
make Atlantic salmon to survive and thrive in icy Newfoundland winter
waters where only the blood chemistry of the winter flounder survives
when water temperatures drop below freezing.
Sutterlin is taking up the needle, not only for fading chasers of
wild salmon but also for the future of aquaculture along the whole
Canadian east coast. No use raising pens of farm-bred salmon if an
icy wave can kill them all overnight.
According to fish physiologist Garth Fletcher of the same
institution, the flounders' liver was responsible for the excretion
of this biological magic. So the answer was simple: find "the antifreeze gene".
Thanks to the wonders of biotechnology, the project is well underway. They have implanted the anti-freeze gene in Atlantic salmon
eggs. Now not only are such scientists trying to make salmon grow
larger, more rapidly at lower cost but they want them to grow where
they have never grown before -- in freezing water! Such genemanipulated eggs would hatch into salmon which would have the antifreeze gene in every body cell.
Of course this didn't just happen. Fellow scientist, Malaysianborn Choy Hew had previously been working on flounder protein
structure involved with the then-unknown anti-freeze gene in 1981.
With modern communications he had learned that scientist, Peter Davis
of Queen's University in Kingston had also successfully isolated the
first of the flounder's 40 anti-freeze genes. The total package
started to come together. Later intestinal bacterium known as E.
coli was injected with the flounders' alien gene. Generations of nonunion bacteria, working 24-hours a day, produced millions of copies
of the desired gene.
Today Fletcher and his colleagues believe that ten percent of his
gene-manipulated salmon have "taken" the gene. If the gene can be
transfered naturally as they reproduce a new more sophisticated
salmon will ply the North Atlantic. Of course, this has not yet been
proved but the process has come a long way in a relatively short
time. Nature might have taken a billion years to isolate and transfer
the anti-freeze by accident.
Biologist Kenneth B. Storey of Carleton University in Ottawa has
recently found another animal -- the painted turtle -- that
regularly freezes in winter and thaws out in the spring with no
harmful results. It appears that the turtle knows how to dehydrate
by removing damaging freezing water from its cells which would
normally puncture and fatally damage blood cells. When warm weather
returns, the shrunken cells absorb the thawing water and revive.
Storey is taking another tack: he believes that someday this
knowledge may make it possible to refrigerate human transplant organs
for weeks or months. He does not believe it will be possible to
freeze a whole human body because of the complexity involved. But
then 20 years ago he wouldn't have believed what he is doing now.
Another astounding feat in the same field has just now been accomplished at the National Research Council's Plant Biotechnology
Institute in Regina. They have succeeded in taking the flounder gene
mentioned above and transplanting it into the well-known canola (or
rapeseed) plant! Soon on the prairie "freezing" may not always mean
0 degrees C or 32 degrees F.
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