DARPA is hoping to develop a new, far-fetched technology that will be able to record the modifications made to a gene, similar to how “track changes” records versions of a Word document. And yes, there is a conveniently pronounceable acronym for this effort: CLIO, the Chronicle of Lineage Indicative of Origins.
In their own words, the project is: “multidisciplinary research proposals in the area of genomic and proteomic technologies that can continuously and persistently record specific natural or human promulgated environmental, physical and genomic events within the genetic or epigenetic systems of microorganisms.” Elucidating, no? (No.)
Wired speculates that DARPA’s motivation is to protect copyrighted genes that they own. However, it’s also possible that this could be used as a method for tracing and securing information that is leaked out. They could, perhaps, use this technology to determine the origin of a dangerous biological agent. DARPA has other plans for the technology, too. From Wired:
Not only does Darpa want to create recording “tags,” they also want these tags to remain immutable and somehow resist microbe evolution. The way they plan to do this is “possibly a complex mathematical approach.” They also want the technology to provide secure access to a select few hands — a sort of encrypted password system for genes.
Were it to be developed, and actually work, this technology could have huge applications outside the military world. In medical science, being able to work backwards through mutations could give scientists amazing insight on how to treat and prevent diseases. Cancer research could also likely benefit from learning more about how normal, healthy cells turn into deadly cancer cells.
This is all highly speculative, of course, but something that is fraught with potential. And the most exciting part is that because DARPA is involved, this might actually become a reality.
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