Interviewee: Robert Pollack.
Renowned biologist and philosopher Robert Pollack reflects on his concern over the potential danger of Janet Mertz's experiment inserting a cancer-causing gene from a monkey virus into a bacterium that lives in humans.
(DNAi Location: MAnipulation > Revolution > Players >The controversy > Bridging evolutionary barriers)
I posed to her the simple question, whether she had thought about the fact that she was bridging evolutionary barriers that had existed since the last common ancestors of bacteria and people, by putting a viral genome from a primate virus into a bacterium, and whether that might jump a species barrier and cause someone to develop colon tumors from transformation of their colon lining as this bacterium established itself in their gut.
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Paul Berg's student, Janet Mertz, planned an experiment that would recombine DNA from a monkey virus with DNA from a bacterium that lives in the human gut. Berg describes colleague Bob Pollack's outrage at this.
The controversy: With recombinant DNA, scientists had the means to manipulate living things. But could there be a danger in "playing God?" While some were thrilled by the potential of these new techniques to combat genetic diseases such as cancer, others