As humans, we have come a long way from the time when ideas like replicating human intelligence were quite distant. There was skepticism, on whether they will be fruitful or if all of this could turn the picture of the human race upside down. After all, why would we want to bring something into this world that is our competitors? Alternatively, the ideas of creating artificially intelligent entities made people ponder about ethics. And so, researchers and literary experts made some ground rules on using artificial intelligence in a way that could keep us humans in the safe space. But, here are. Pushing all boundaries around artificial intelligence and trying to make it better with each passing day.
It’s your first day in your new office as a developer and you’ve been assigned a new project. You start working on a module, and by the end of the day, you try to compile and run it. Like any other programmer, you’re bound to get errors, of all kinds. What do you do now? You debug because after all it’s a code and little tweaks will run the program again smoothly. Within minutes, all is done and your module is good to go.
If only, everything else was like a piece of code. The interpreter or compiler could tell you where the problem lies and with your knowledge of the package that you’re building you can fix it without even realizing it. However, that’s not the case when it comes to the quintessence of life.
Even though we as humans have progressed to a great degree, we are still having a hard time unraveling the secrets of our biology. We still rely on a lot of generalized medicines that instead of targeting a particular gene, leave the patient with a lot of side effects. Similarly, when it comes to rare diseases, we still can’t find cures to them and a result, let a significant chunk of our population die.
When Crick and Watson discovered DNA and conceptualized a model for them, it was one of the most breakthrough studies in the world. The double helix structure immediately turned the world upside down for the field of healthcare and everyone started working on cures, now that they know how the genetic career of life looked like within a human body.
The implications of the Crick and Watson discovery of the double helix structure was that the genes and genomes inside the human body are the fundamentals of the organic life. They are also written on a code based on four letters. These four letters were A- Adenine, T- Thymine, G- Guanine, and C- Cytosine. Now imagine this as the fundamental building block of your computer program. The amount of programs that you can create from them, translating them into a sequence is practically infinite.
Being, like humans, are analogous to biological machines who are Java web developed by exploring plans written in these four letters A, T, G and C. Theoretically speaking, if you have figured out the genetic sequence of a code of an organism, you have cracked the code to their existence. And this extends to the fact that you can use it to write another piece of code. Wait, what? Does this mean you can create organisms, just like you keep on creating programs once you figure out the language and the logic?
The idea is what driving research around the world is. With the theory in place, you can become a biological programmer and create other organisms in the manner God created us, assuming the fact that there was an entity behind such a complex thought process of creating complex organisms like human beings.
The progress on these facts has been made in the world. For example, in the year 2010, Craig Venter’s Team discovers the ordering of a bacterium from scratch and incorporated it into a cell. This is what laid the foundation of the world’s first synthetic life form. Similarly, it was only in 2012 that researchers came up with Crispr Cas-9, which is nothing but a tool that can help in cutting and pasting genes for nuanced gene editing. Likewise, the researchers at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge improved the DNA of the E.Coli bacterium. Then they went onto creating genes with the synthetic version of the redesigned genome.
Right now, the world is at the explosion of gene editing. And it is helping us pave a long way in what is being called the age of hyper-personalized medicine. After all, when we have unique sets of genes innately built in us, why not have a drug that is designed only to suit the needs of our body.
In yet another instance, medical experts in the US are designing personalized drugs that are uniquely suited to a particular kind of mutation in human beings. The drug designed for the disease ataxia-telangiectasia, or A-T, tries to fix DNA and save people from the fatal consequences. The chief medical expert behind this, Timothy Yu, called this drug anti-person and borrowed inspiration from recent advances in gene editing. The idea behind this treatment is simple, fix the alterations in the genes like they are a piece of code. Just like one does in a digital program, the same concept is being extended to the sequence of DNA, where the sequence of A, T, G, and C can be altered, changed and reprogrammed.
With recent changes in the picture, treating diseases can become a programmer’s task. The new strategy can help not only come up with many useful drugs but also treat patients and save more than a million lives across the world. As the future draws, the research can also be combined with machine learning models that can analyze these sequences and the existing databases of a molecule to come up with more efficient and targeted drugs.