DNA Day experts answer your questions about combining animal and human DNA

CurioCity
18 April 2013

Above: Image © Starcevic, iStockphoto.com

Is it possible to mix animal DNA (let's say feline, or a cat) with human DNA and the human will still live and grow, with normal functions, the only difference is that the human now has heightend senses, the abliity to run faster and jump higher and see well in the dark?

One major issue with respect to interspecies compatability is the number of chromosomes different eukaryotic organisms have, and the fact that the genes within the chromosomes can be in different order in different places. So trying to mix the genomes of the cat and the frog won't give a cat that likes water. It would be like taking two books and mixing up the pages. The end product will be a mess, and would not be viable.

- Answer provided by Dr. Richard Sparling

Is it possible to take genes from animals in nature and integrate them into human DNA?

Well, chemically DNA is DNA, so there would be ways to do that. But having a gene from a different species actually function in human cells would be a whole other question. There's no question that, depending on the gene, that could work. Up until now the reverse has been true: genetically engineer mice by putting human genes in them, then see - for instance - how those mice react to medical treatments. A good example: prion diseases (like Mad Cow). They take years to develop in most animals, but will show up much faster in mice which have been genetically engineered.

- Answer provided by Jay Ingram

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