Biologists have been mixing the DNA of different animals since the 1970s, but the idea of injecting the genes of animals into humans remains taboo. Called transgenics, it’s a practice that could cure illness in the future — and eventually reshape our species. Here’s what you need to know about it.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.
Transgenics has been around for a while now. It’s the use of any number of recombinant DNA techniques to introduce new characteristics — via genes — into organisms that weren’t present before. These changes can either alter the germ cell line, passing new traits down to offspring; or they can affect the somatic cell line, which just changes the individual who receives treatment. Transgenesis can involve the entire organism, or a few individual cells.
Transgenic animals are sometimes called chimeras or hybrids. These genetically-mixed animals are often used to model specific human diseases, produce novel materials and tissues, and engineered to withstand diseases, among many other things. […]