Science fiction: How quickly is a DNA change reversible?

Martin Weiss weissm at rockvax.rockefeller.edu
Mon Jul 31 15:40:50 EST 2000


At 11:19 AM -0700 on 7/31/00, Richard Oeffner wrote about Re: Science 
fiction: How quickly is a DNA change reverse:
>I agree that the drug would change the expression of the proteins made by
>DNA, and would therefore possibly have an effect on behavior....but as DNA
>is synthesized ad infinitum by cells, the change back to pre-drug effect
>would not take too long.
>
>Science Fiction is not realistic, but extrapolations of known science or
>technology. I think using a drug mist that contains a neurotransmitter to
>affect brain function sounds a little more realistic than DNA being
>affected by a drug.
>
>Good Luck with the book Thomas.
>
>R. Oeffner
>
>Thomas Ebinger wrote:
>
>>  Dear all,
>>  I am an editor for young adult fiction books. At the moment I am
>>  working on a science fiction series. As I am not very good at biology,
>>  I would like to ask you, whether the following scenario is realistic
>>  or not: A society lives in an isolated environment. The people there
>>  are governed by an evil group of people, that blows a certain drug
>>  into the air. By inhaling this drug the DNA of the inhabitants is
>>  being changed and transforms them into obedient citizens. Is it
>>  realistic that, if you withdraw this drug, the changes in the DNA
>>  recede and the citizens become thinking individuals again? And if this
>>  is the case, how quickly could this take place?
>>  Thank you very much for your help and excuse my ignorance.
>>  Best wishes
>>  Katharina Ebinger

Katharina;

One of the problems with your scenario is that we do not know what 
the gene or genes are that determine behavior. In fact a good guess 
is that behavior is determined not only by behavior but by 
environment. So a drug to act on DNA is unlikely, from what we know, 
to effect behavior to the extent that a population would become 
obedient.

Either a compound that is a neurotransmitter or a blocker of a 
receptor site in the brain would be a more likely scenario. You might 
have to have this constantly being released as because of receptor 
turn over the effect would not last as long as would be necessary to 
control a population.

Cheers,

Martin
-- 



Martin Weiss, Ph.D.
Director of Science
New York Hall of Science
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