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Jurassic Park becomes real (almost).

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 19th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Scientists at Harvard University announce that they have "rewound" evolution producing a chicken with an alligator-like snout by manipulating its DNA. Perhaps not quite Jurassic Park, but it's certainly something akin. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Dr. Arkhat Abzhanov, an evolutionary biologist, changed the DNA of chicken embryos in the very early stages of their development by adding a very tiny drop of gelatinous protein to their eggs before the chicks developed. The result was the chicks developed alligator-like snouts which scientists claim is an evolutionary throwback of millions of years. After study, the chicks were not allowed to hatch for ethical reasons.

Evolutionary biologists have long claimed that birds are closely related to reptiles, having evolved feathers in place of scales and learning to fly as a result of millions of years of natural selection. Now they may have yet more evidence to support the theory.  

In addition to developing the understanding of evolutionary theory, the process is hailed as a means of detecting and possibly eliminating birth defects in children before they are born. The ability to easily manipulate genes could also prove useful in adapting species of animals to better survive the effects of climate change which many scientists claim threatens countless species.
 
The mere addition of a protein to the DNA is all that appears to have been required to undo millions of years of evolution. Dr. Abzhanov was able to stop the development of selected molecules which themselves develop into particular features.  This method of molecular manipulation could allow researchers to encourage or prevent the development of particular features in organisms, possibly including humans, thus giving the research a very practical application, which would be to prevent birth defects in humans. 

Dr. Abzhanov plans to continue his work and hopes to someday reverse the evolution of the chicken and produce a prehistoric ancestor to the bird. Similar work is being done by Dr. Jack Horner, a paleontologist from the University of Montana. If their efforts are successful, they could recreate some of the chicken's prehistoric ancestors in the lab. More importantly, their work shows just how easy it is to manipulate DNA of animals, and likely humans. 

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