PDA

View Full Version : dna, rna and enhanced Human Abilities.....



Overkill
08-28-2008, 05:42 PM
As i understand things, the difference between dna and rna is that RNA's purpose is to carry out the directions and information of the DNA, this is very general but is it correct?

I know that there is junk DNA, whose purpose is not known as it is not used, is this also correct? So then to me it follows that there is the possibility of having junk RNA?

Is it possible that there are pieces of DNA that do contain the code that would enhance Human abilities, not junk DNA, but DNA that only requires the right RNA to act out this information? And, does all of this sound too much like the mythology that is explained to create the characters in the show heroes?

Where i am going with this is that i was thinking of a story that involves a group of people that would all have enhanced, mutant like abilites and they would be explained by an RNA retrovirus that is used to activate those parts of the DNA that carry the code for that special ability, whatever it may be.

Any help, suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated. My knowledge on this borders on sub-moronic and i am hoping for all the help i can get.

thank you all in advance

Greg

Higgins
08-28-2008, 06:54 PM
As i understand things, the difference between dna and rna is that RNA's purpose is to carry out the directions and information of the DNA, this is very general but is it correct?

I know that there is junk DNA, whose purpose is not known as it is not used, is this also correct? So then to me it follows that there is the possibility of having junk RNA?

Is it possible that there are pieces of DNA that do contain the code that would enhance Human abilities, not junk DNA, but DNA that only requires the right RNA to act out this information? And, does all of this sound too much like the mythology that is explained to create the characters in the show heroes?

Where i am going with this is that i was thinking of a story that involves a group of people that would all have enhanced, mutant like abilites and they would be explained by an RNA retrovirus that is used to activate those parts of the DNA that carry the code for that special ability, whatever it may be.

Any help, suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated. My knowledge on this borders on sub-moronic and i am hoping for all the help i can get.

thank you all in advance

Greg

There's no junk RNA because RNA transcription is how you know what the active parts (genes) are on the DNA. However, there's no reason that some "genetic switch" could not decode or reactivate something in the junk DNA. In my fiction I use rogue Golgi Bodies in fungal organisms to do just that. There are other mechanisms you could use...I think a retrovirus could be part of such a mechanism..but they are a bit limited in what they can do. they would need some roughly mitochondrial-sized control thing to get them to do what would be needed I would think.

Kitty Pryde
08-28-2008, 08:46 PM
You're close, but not quite there. DNA sits in the nucleus of the cell. A single gene is a blueprint for a single protein. It's like a permanent master copy. When a strand of RNA is made, it's kind of like a disposable photocopy of that gene, that can be taken outside of the nucleus to be used. That RNA leaves the nucleus and is used to make a specific protein. That protein has a certain job in your body. (I am simplifying a lot because it gets ridiculously complex. There are many types of RNA but I am talking specifically about messenger RNA (aka mRNA). Reading The Cartoon Guide to Genetics is probably your best bet for figuring everything out--it's by that guy who wrote cartoon history of the world. it's super easy to grok and also very accurate.)

The idea that junk DNA really codes for special abilities, but it just isn't unlocked is plausible from a SF standpoint. So is the idea that a retrovirus could 'unlock' these genes. A retrovirus consists of RNA, but it isn't really the RNA of the virus that would activate anything. The retrovirus's RNA message gets translated back into DNA in a human cell, which gets added to the cell's own DNA and becomes part of the genome. From THERE, that new gene would be transcribed from DNA into RNA, then the RNA would leave the nucleus, get turned into a protein, and THAT protein would be able to 'unlock' the junk DNA that might give someone a special ability. Proteins that encourage or discourage transcription of a certain gene are called promoters and opressors, respectively. Does that make sense? I'm trying to say that RNA doesn't do anything but make a specific protein. And retroviruses don't do anything genetics-wise except add themselves to your genome and make copies of themselves.

Look into 'endogenous retroviruses.' They are a real thing, and an interesting way to build up your premise--I think you could set it up so that ERVs were used intentionally to set up humans to become super-people-by aliens or mad scientists or whoever.

And finally, I wouldn't worry about being similar to the setup of Heroes. Heroes is just about one spandex jumpsuit away from being The X-Men, and no one seems to mind. Just make the story and characters your own! Good luck!

Overkill
08-28-2008, 09:07 PM
Kitty, thanks a bunch for all of the helpful information. I think i pretty well followed your discourse on genetics and i found it extremely helpful, now i need to do some research on that virus you mentioned and see how it would build me to the point want to be in.

The one question i would have then is this, once i get the research done and find my hooks and all, would i be able to bill a novel of this type as a thriller? Or would i have to relegate it to the SF pile, because my ultimate goal is to mainstream this and make it a thriller type story, not a SF story.

i intend to go and get that cartoon book so i can understand it better but as far as this endogenous retrovirus goes, i browsed real quick and it seems that it is something that could get passed on? Would this virus be a way of activating that DNA or would it bring about change in someother way that would create these abillities?