THE CODEX OF LIFE

Understanding life seems like the Hindu tale in which 6 blind men
touch an elephant and try to explain what it is. Every single one of
them reaches a different conclusion based on where they touch it and
in the end they are all correct, but it’s never the entire animal. We’ve
wished upon stars, done experiments, even created gods to
understand life and hence biology... I believe, however, that the key to
unfolding this big picture is much closer to us than the distant galaxies;
it has been hidden in plain site all along in the form of a minuscule
four-letter alphabet in the cores of our cells, and now we may get to
find out what it actually is.
Every DNA has a unique sequence of four nitrogenous bases-A,G,T,Cthat encodes for the proteins that determine the traits of living
creatures. And sequencing this alphabet, genome sequencing, may
create myriad opportunities for humanity in the future.
Every organism is formed from a single cell that differentiates into
different cells and parts that defines it’s species but in the end the
complete genome still exists in every differentiated cell; some genes
are simply turned off. The genetic code does change/evolve but it’s
never destroyed. Similar to this process, it is believed that all of life
originated from a single cell: the Last Universal Common Ancestor
a.k.a LUCA. All endeavors toward finding LUCA’s sequence has been
about trying to emulate the right conditions in which it was born, but
we can’t resurrect an unknown language. Why shouldn’t we use the
language at hand that’s sole purpose has been to copy that first
information ever and bring it into the future? By the aid of genome
sequencing, if we were to sequence the genetic code of every domain
just like we sequenced the human genome, we could theoretically form
a common sequence that may lead us to the genome of LUCA, since
even in our more evolved forms we bare pieces of that first cell that
ever divided 3.8 billion years ago. Finding LUCA would mean finding
the very origin of life, which would not just answer scientific questions,
but religious and philosophical ones as well and put ancient arguments
to rest.
A scientist put a quote from a novel in the genetic sequence of a
bacteria which proved that DNA was a reliable source information
storage and not just useful for protein synthesis. I believe that this
reveals two things. First that the noncoding, so called “junk” DNA can
be a yet to be deciphered information storage unit that can reveal data
about the very formation of the genetic code (hence LUCA), so by
sequencing this junk DNA and perhaps comparing it to that of other
species we can decode this ancient time capsule. This will probably

rebut or endorse theories such as “Panspermia” which relates to my
first argument that genome sequencing may lead us to the big picture.
This quote also shows that by the aid of genome sequencing in the
future we may stop storing information in hard disks but in DNA, which
will never be destroyed, as it will be passed on every time it replicates
itself, which will make the renowned genome libraries very literal.
A disadvantage of genome sequencing may be that decoding and then
perhaps finding ways to cure corrupt genes (which means tampering
with an alphabet that’s been frozen for billions of years) may have
catastrophic consequences. Leslie Orgel once said “Evolution is
cleverer than you are” and he is right. For example, a base substitution
mutation results in a deformed red blood cell that causes sickle cell
anemia. By sequencing someone’s genome we can understand this
and perhaps cure it but what if eliminating that variety is not the best
idea? The plasmodium bacterium that cause malaria doesn’t infect
sickle shaped red blood cells. If the World had a malaria pandemic (this
example can be for a disease with no cure) and all the sickle cell
anemia variety had been eliminated, the survival of our species would
be in danger. So I believe that even though genome sequencing may
help us identify and cure many awful illnesses, we should look for ways
to cure individual patients without curing their genetic codes.
Genome sequencing holds the key to the past and hence the future. I
believe that this still-developing rosetta stone will help us understand
life,-its origin, its history- and bring human existence to the much
coveted next step. With it, we are stepping into a new era, a “Genetic
Age” that will surpass even this one.

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