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Scientists Suggest Modifying Human Genes to be More Fit for Mars

Humans are not fit for space and gene therapies might make us more adequate for it. This assertion was made byJason Pontin a contributor for Wired.com. He borrowed the definition of fitness in this context from evolutionary biologists, who define fitness as measure of natural selection: the average propensity of individuals of a species to survive and reproduce.

“Space is inimical to our species”, he wrote“It is cold, empty, and airless—and that’s the least of it. The real problem is myriad stressors, especially radiation, for which space suits and ships provide little protection.”. The atmosphere of the earth and its magnetic fields, protect humans from Mars dangerous radiations, ifindividualsare exposed to the radiation or flares of solar particles in Mars, it would lead to the death or malfunctioning of cells.

This has led to serious questions by biologists as to whether humans can be genetically modified in a way that they could travel to space and survive without being exposed to these dangers stated above.According to Pontin, “Their queries prompt more profound questions about our responsibilities and duties in the next phase of human evolution.”

Humans have always felt it necessary to explore, hence our longing to conquer the perilous planet of mars, and hence the questions as to whether there are ways in which the human genetic makeup could be altered to survive Mars.

The article quotesGeorge Church, a Harvard geneticist and leading synthetic biologist, who argues that, “One likely path for risk reduction in space does seem to involve biological engineering of adult would-be astronauts.” “Quite a bit is already known about resistance to radiation, osteoporosis, cancer, and senescence in mice,” he says. Church pointed out that pharmaceutical companies are already using these genes in clinical trials and it therefore wouldn’t be so far-fetched to use them as a preventive therapy for astronauts. Churchpointed out a good number of genes that might be useful in this area. His list includes CTNNBI, which confers radiation resistance, LRP5, which builds adamantine bones, ESPA1 (common in Tibetans), which allows people to live with less oxygen, as well as a host of genes that might increase smartness and reduce anxiety.

A lab at Weil Corneil is also participating in a NASA study of how twin astronauts changed when one spent a year in space while another remained on Earth. Chris Mason, the geneticist whose lab runs this study, has proposed a “500-year plan” for space colonization. Its three main components are expanding our knowledge of genomics, including determining which genes should wear a “do-not-disturb sign,” because their alteration would kill or disable us; engineering microbes; and adding, deleting, and modifying genes to create permanent, heritable changes in a population.

Proposals from other researchers are even more daring, “Harris Wang of Columbia wants to coax human kidney cells to synthesize the nine amino acids our bodies cannot make… Other scientists have suggested photosynthetic spacefarers, or editing the personalities of the space corps, so that they fearlessly longed for the high frontier because it was their true terminus.” Said the article