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altered-explorers

未来系列:改变后的探险者们

FUTURES:Altered Explorers

By Adam Dodson

Floating silently in awe at a sunrise over Jupiter, an oddly blue hued human astronaut is in orbit around the moon, Io (Eye-Oh). Her navy blue skin is illuminated by the sunlight.  The sun is far but high energy particles strike the radiotrophic pigment in her skin and produce energy. She feels the radiation tingle and fill her with warmth and energy. This supplement reduces her daily caloric intake, greatly reducing the nutrient mass required at liftoff.  A human from the year 2022 could not survive here, the radiation is too intense, their cells and DNA would be shredded quickly by high energy particles. Jupiter’s impressive magnetosphere takes any charged particles and accelerates them so quickly that they pose an immense risk to explorers and equipment.

在木星上空的日出上,一名穿着奇怪蓝色衣服的人类宇航员怀着敬畏之情静静地漂浮着,他正在环绕木卫一的轨道上。她深蓝色的皮肤被阳光照亮。太阳很远,高能粒子撞击她皮肤中的放射性营养色素并产生能量。她感到辐射刺痛,充满了温暖和能量。这种补充减少了她每天的热量摄入,大大减少了起飞时所需的营养质量。2022年的人类无法在这里生存,辐射太强烈,他们的细胞和DNA会很快被高能粒子撕碎。木星令人印象深刻的磁层吸收任何带电粒子,并迅速加速它们,这对探险者和设备构成了巨大的风险。

The quiet moment of rejuvenation in the cupola is fleeting as an alarm and green status readout appear on her cornea integrated heads-up display. It shows a fault in a navigation module. She pushes off with one foot and glides with ease towards the back of the ship. She quickly finds the faulty module as her heads-up display highlights it for her. The module casing contains the same dark pigment that helps protect her skin from radiation, electrical components are also vulnerable to the high energy environment outside the haven of earth’s magnetosphere.

当警报和绿色状态读数出现在她的角膜集成平视显示器上时,在圆顶里恢复活力的安静时刻转瞬即逝。它显示了一个导航模块的故障。她用一只脚推开船,轻松地滑向船的后部。她很快就找到了有问题的模块,她的显示器为她突出显示了它。模块外壳含有同样的深色色素,帮助保护她的皮肤免受辐射,电子元件也很容易受到地球磁层避风港外的高能量环境的影响。

She gets right up close to the module, pressing her eye against the rough translucent gray casing, inspecting the insides with her infrared spectrum vision. She can see current flowing through wires by the heat emitted and she can visually detect heat emitted from broken or damaged components. She quickly spots the faulty capacitor glowing red with wasted energy and replaces it with ease. She is an expert mechanic, electrical engineer, navigator, pilot, doctor, and solo explorer. All these things came easy to her.  These skills are no mistake as her genetics were modified for superior intellect, along with other adaptations necessary for the harsh universe outside Earth’s thin, warm, atmosphere. The blue skin pigment comes from a unique fungus found on earth around Chernobyl.  This Melanin like pigment absorbs and protects the traveler from high energy radiation and turns it into cellular energy.

她径直走近模块,把眼睛贴在粗糙的半透明灰色外壳上,用她的红外光谱视觉检查内部。她可以通过发出的热量看到流经电线的电流,她可以通过视觉检测从损坏或损坏的部件发出的热量。她很快发现了发光的红色电容浪费了能量,并轻松更换了它。她是一位专业的机械师、电气工程师、领航员、飞行员、医生和独自探险家。所有这些对她来说都很容易。这些技能不是胡编乱造的,因为她的基因被修改为更高的智力,以及其他适应地球稀薄、温暖的大气层之外的严酷宇宙所必需的适应。这种蓝色皮肤色素来自于切尔诺贝利附近地球上发现的一种独特的真菌。这种黑色素类色素吸收并保护旅行者免受高能量辐射,并将其转化为细胞能量。

Her bones are modified to stay strong without the influence of gravity. An extra protein added to her bone matrix sends out electric pulses while she sleeps which stimulates the calcium matrix imitating load bearing as if on Earth. Her immune system is modified slightly so that it accepts the various implants she has in her eyes, brainstem and gut. These electronics keep close watch over her vital signs and monitor her microbiome which  alerts her when things might be out of sorts.

她的骨骼经过改造,可以在不受重力影响的情况下保持强壮。一种额外的蛋白质被添加到她的骨基质中,在她睡觉时发出电脉冲,刺激钙基质模仿地球上的负重。她的免疫系统经过了轻微的调整,可以接受她眼睛、脑干和肠道里的各种植入物。这些电子设备密切监视着她的生命体征,并监测她的微生物群,在情况可能不佳时提醒她。

Her feline companion watches curiously as she floats back and forth about the ship, tending to the systems. The cat sits silently in the cupola, soaking up the sun with the same pigment adaptation that allows the astronaut to absorb energy for the sun. The cat is there mostly for companionship but is also part of an experiment to analyze the adaptability of domestic animals in space.

她的猫猫好奇地看着她在船上浮来浮去,照管着系统。猫猫静静地坐在圆顶里,用和宇航员为太阳吸收能量一样的色素适应吸收阳光。这只猫在那里主要是为了陪伴,但也是一项分析家畜在太空适应性的实验的一部分。

State of modification

修改状态

Genetic modification using novel techniques like CRISPR-Cas9 are increasingly powerful but are still far from predictable enough to use ethically on human patients. CRISPR is particularly useful and accurate when removing DNA sequences, but far less so when inserting information. In addition to location errors, erroneous proteins can be unintentionally formed due to the relation of the new data to the existing data on either side. That hasn’t stopped Chinese researchers from carrying out controversial gene therapies (Wang, 2020). Altering the genetic makeup of the patient embryos in-vitro, these humans will pass those alterations onto their own children, and so on. There is simply no way we can take back that change. It is now part of the broader human genome and we will have to deal with any unintended consequences in the future.

使用像CRISPR-Cas9这样的新技术进行基因改造的功能越来越强大,但还远远不能预测到可以在伦理上用于人类患者。CRISPR在去除DNA序列时尤其有用和准确,但在插入信息时则远远不够。除了定位错误之外,由于新数据与两边现有数据的关系,错误的蛋白质可能在无意中形成。这并没有阻止中国研究人员进行有争议的基因疗法。在体外改变病人胚胎的基因组成,这些人将把这些改变传递给自己的孩子,以此类推。我们根本没有办法挽回这种改变。它现在是更广泛的人类基因组的一部分,我们将不得不应对未来任何意想不到的后果。

The adaptability of biology always exceeds expectations.  It appears so fragile and evenly balanced while permeating every niche and overcoming obstacles we can’t imagine.  As we continue to discover and understand unique facets of biology, nature, and protein folding, we will use this knowledge to modify our own bodies, and the ecosystems within and around us.

生物的适应性总是超出预期。它看起来是如此脆弱和均衡,渗透到每一个生态位,克服我们无法想象的障碍。随着我们不断发现和理解生物学、自然和蛋白质折叠的独特方面,我们将利用这些知识来修改我们自己的身体,以及我们内部和周围的生态系统。

Macro to Mirco

从宏观到微观

It is only natural, since we are macro machines made from proteins, that soon we will interact directly with the micro-verse through protein manipulation.  We will adapt proteins found within nature or create entirely new ones. Humans already do this in many ways. We know yeast produces alcohol if we feed it sugar and give it the right conditions to live in. We know we can teach our immune system how to notice an attack by showing it a preview of the attacker. These are two examples of how we use biology to create useful molecules and use proteins to modify our bodies in helpful ways. These are however crude examples. New recombinant DNA technologies are allowing us to create any protein you can imagine by simply inserting it into the genome of a microbe like e Coli in many cases.  Since we are not so concerned about harming microbes, we readily alter their genomes and coax them into doing things that are helpful for us. Another exciting example is coaxing a microbe into creating an enzyme that would help catalyze the production of hydrogen fuel (TUM 2021). Essentially, this process appears like brewing beer. Huge stainless steel vats are filled with medium and a microbe is prepared with genetic alterations that force it to create a particular protein. The medium is then inoculated with the microbe that is then allowed to grow and produce the desired output. The knowledge and refinements of techniques in recombinant technology will influence and set the stage for human alterations in the future.

这是很自然的,因为我们是由蛋白质构成的宏观机器,很快我们将通过蛋白质操纵直接与微观宇宙互动。我们将适应自然界中发现的蛋白质,或者创造全新的蛋白质。人类已经在很多方面做到了这一点。我们知道,如果我们给酵母喂糖,给它合适的生存环境,它就会产生酒精。我们知道,通过向免疫系统展示攻击者的预告,我们可以教会免疫系统如何注意到攻击。这是两个例子,说明了我们如何利用生物学创造有用的分子,以及如何利用蛋白质以有益的方式改造我们的身体。然而,这些都是粗糙的例子。新的重组DNA技术使我们能够通过简单地将蛋白质插入到像大肠杆菌这样的微生物的基因组中,从而创造出任何你能想象到的蛋白质。由于我们不太关心对微生物的伤害,我们很容易改变它们的基因组,哄它们做对我们有帮助的事情。另一个令人兴奋的例子是诱导微生物创造一种酶,帮助催化氢燃料的生产(TUM 2021)。从本质上说,这个过程看起来就像酿造啤酒。巨大的不锈钢大桶中装满培养基,微生物的基因发生改变,迫使它产生一种特殊的蛋白质。然后在培养基中接种微生物,让其生长并产生所需的产量。重组技术的知识和技术改进将影响并为未来人类的改变奠定基础。

Genetic Elephant in the Room

基因层面上的巨大潜能

Sometimes the solution to a particular problem is already in the room. Take the solar pigment example in the story above. Deep within the reactor of Chernobyl, a fungi Cryptococcus neoformans, has found a perfect home. This fungus uses a unique biological process called radiosynthesis, like photosynthesis plants use to create cellular energy, that is powered by high energy particles emitted by the decaying nuclear fuel beneath Chernobyl. The mechanism is not understood but the pigment seems to be opaque to high energy particles like beta decay, while also showing accelerated growth when exposed to heat and light alone. This discovery, first described in 2007, has exciting potential for use in spaceflight.

有时候,一个特定问题的解决方案已经在房间里了。以上面故事中的太阳能颜料为例。在切尔诺贝利反应堆的深处,一种新型隐球菌菌类找到了一个完美的家。这种真菌使用一种叫做放射性合成的独特生物过程,就像光合作用植物用来产生细胞能量一样,这种能量由切尔诺贝利地下衰变的核燃料释放的高能粒子提供动力。其机理尚不清楚,但这种色素似乎对β衰变等高能粒子不透明,同时在单独暴露在热和光中时也会加速生长。这一发现于2007年首次被描述,在太空飞行中具有令人兴奋的应用潜力。

Enhancing Explorers

加强探险家

Once we travel outside the tranquil atmosphere and magnetosphere of the earth the levels of radiation become dangerous to our biology and technology. The biological systems responsible for this radio-synthesis could be adapted and inserted within our own genome. This would allow us to absorb high energy particles for energy instead of suffering cellular damage from the cosmic bullets.

一旦我们旅行到宁静的大气层和地球磁层之外,辐射水平就会对我们的生物和技术构成威胁。负责这种放射性合成的生物系统可以适应并插入到我们自己的基因组中。这将使我们能够吸收高能粒子以获取能量,而不是遭受宇宙子弹造成的细胞损伤。

At some point in the future, our ability to modify genomes will become so accurate that it would be unethical to allow explorers to venture forth without special adaptations. To send a 2022 human to Jupiter would be a death sentence.  With some relatively minor tweaks to their genome, they might find it at least hospitable. Similarly, humans on earth who suffer from small errors in their genome, will be good early candidates for having their genomes altered, particularly when their health and lives would be negatively affected without the intervention of these technologies. Take Huntington’s disease for example. This tragic illness is caused by a single defective gene. We know exactly where it is and exactly how it is different from the normal version but we do not currently possess the tools to fix it safely.

在未来的某个时刻,我们修改基因组的能力将变得如此精确,以至于允许探险家在没有特殊适应的情况下冒险将是不道德的。2022年将人类送上木星无异于死刑。只要对它们的基因组进行一些相对较小的调整,它们至少会发现火星是友好的。同样,地球上那些基因组中出现小错误的人类,将是基因组改变的早期很好的候选者,特别是当他们的健康和生活在没有这些技术的干预下会受到负面影响时。以亨廷顿舞蹈症为例。这种悲惨的疾病是由一个基因缺陷引起的。我们确切地知道它在哪里,确切地知道它与正常版本有什么不同,但我们目前没有安全修复它的工具。

Everyday Upgrades

日新月异

After some time dialing these techniques for use on humans when necessary, we will then see modifications to humans who are not in such dire need of help. We could modify our microbiomes to be more resilient towards certain infections, Radiation or alter our metabolism to be more efficient. Birds, for example, have superhero-like mitochondria. Over time, our flying kin needed tons of energy to get around, and that meant adaptations favoring efficient metabolisms rose to the top. Imagine if you only needed 1,500 calories a day vs 2,000.  Not only would this reduce your cost of living and carbon footprint, but applied across humanity it could make us less dependent on the current food system and more resilient to food shortages over all.

在一段时间拨号这些技术在必要时用于人类之后,我们就会看到对人类的修改,而这些人类并不那么迫切需要帮助。我们可以修改我们的微生物群,使其对某些感染和辐射更有抵抗力,或者改变我们的新陈代谢,使其更有效。例如,鸟类拥有超人般的线粒体。随着时间的推移,我们的飞行亲戚需要大量的能量来飞行,这意味着有利于高效新陈代谢的适应能力上升到了顶峰。想象一下,如果你每天只需要1500卡路里而不是2000卡路里。这不仅能降低你的生活成本和碳足迹,还能在整个人类范围内应用,使我们减少对当前粮食体系的依赖,更能适应总体上的粮食短缺。

The future of space travel, medicine, and life on earth is exciting.  Especially when you consider that our tools for manipulating ourselves and our environments are becoming more powerful. Hopefully we will look back at 2022 and consider CRISPR Cas-9 akin to civil war bone hacking surgeries because the tools that exist will be so safe, accurate, and powerful. We can only hope that our understanding of the unintended consequences grows in stride, and that the pioneers in the fields of gene editing and protein manipulation take it upon themselves to act ethically and in the best interests of humanity.

太空旅行、医学和地球生命的未来令人兴奋。特别是当你考虑到我们操纵自己和环境的工具正变得越来越强大。希望我们在2022年回首时,会认为CRISPR Cas-9类似于内战时期的骨骼切割手术,因为现有的工具将是如此安全、准确和强大。我们只能希望,我们对意外后果的理解能够稳步增长,希望基因编辑和蛋白质操纵领域的先驱们能够承担起道德责任,以人类的最佳利益行事。

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