1galdieriaA super hardy red algae thrives in an Iceland sulfur hot spring because of special genes.Genetic analysis of red algae that lives in extreme environments such as sulfuric acid-rich hot springs and toxic metal-loaded mine shafts shows genes that seem to have been copied from bacteria. This “horizontal gene transfer” process is the same method used by genetic engineers to move genetic material into or out of a cell to become part of a modified DNA code. A well-known example of these techniques has been splicing the human insulin gene into the genetic material of the bacteria e coli so it can produce genuine human insulin for diabetics.

Red alga Galdieria sulphuraria can live equally well in Iceland’s sulfur-laden hot springs as well as mine shafts loaded with arsenic and toxic metals such as mercury. Researchers at Oklahoma State University and Heinrich-Heine-Universitat in Dusseldorf, Germany made these surprising discoveries as they sequenced and analyzed the DNA of these extremely hardy red algae species.

“The scientists made an unexpected discovery: Galdieria’s genome shows clear signs of borrowing genes from its neighbors. Many genes that contribute to Galdieria’s adaptations were not inherited from its ancestor red algae, but were acquired from bacteria or archaebacteria. This horizontal gene transfer’ is typical for the evolution of bacteria, researchers say.”

2algaeA super hardy red algae thrives in an Iceland sulfur hot spring because of special genes.

“The alga owes its ability to survive the toxic effects of such elements as mercury and arsenic to transport proteins and enzymes that originated in genes it swiped from bacteria. It also copied genes offering tolerance to high salt concentrations, and an ability to make use of a wide variety of food sources. The genes were copied from bacteria that live in the same extreme environment as Galdieria.”

“What Galdieria did is a dream come true for biotechnology,’ says [Andreas] Weber. Galdieria has acquired genes with interesting properties from different organisms, integrated them into a functional network and developed unique properties and adaptations.’ In the future, genetic engineering may allow other algae to make use of the proteins that offer stress tolerance to Galdieria. Such a development would be relevant to biofuel production, says [researcher Gerald] Schoenknecht, as oil-producing algae don’t yet have the ability to withstand the same extreme conditions as Galdieria.”[2]

Genetic Engineering Miracles: Human Insulin Production

Genetic engineers have been able to splice genetic material into cells using various “horizontal gene transfer” techniques that give the organism additional desirable abilities. There is a well-known example where genetic engineers moved a gene from a human cell into bacteria.

Insulin was discovered in 1889 and the first use of insulin from pigs or cattle to treat diabetes was in 1922. This non-human derived insulin had significant differences from human insulin and caused allergic reactions in many patients. After the discovery of the DNA double helix in 1953, amazing strides in genetic engineering techniques allowed the first genuine human insulin to be produced by e coli bacteria in 1978. The human insulin gene from a complex human cell had been spliced into the bacteria’s DNA. The first commercial biosynthetic insulin named Humulin from Eli Lilly Company was first available in 1982. My daughter in law has type I diabetes and benefits from this great miracle every day.[3]

3humanThis illustration shows the process of taking the human insulin gene from a human cell and inserting it into the e coli bacteria to manufacture insulin for diabetics

A Cautionary Tale for Genetic Engineers

If genetic material spliced into a cell by a genetic engineer can be moved by bacteria or viruses into other organisms in the natural world, then these engineers and those that direct their work certainly must use great care and have great wisdom in selecting what modifications should be made to DNA. Our lack of understanding of what might be the unintended consequences of the creation of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) could be potentially disastrous.

Noted geneticist Mae-Wan Ho of the University of Hong Kong has written:

“Genetic engineering is a collection of laboratory techniques used to isolate and combine the genetic material of any species, and then to multiply the constructs in convenient cultures of bacteria and viruses in the laboratory. Most of all, the techniques allow genetic material to be transferred between species that would never interbreed in nature. That is how human genes can be transferred into pigs, sheep, fish and bacteria; and spider silk genes end up in goats. Completely new, exotic genes are also being introduced into food and other crops.

“Horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA has the potential, among other things, to create new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases and spread drug and antibiotic resistance genes among pathogens. There is an urgent need to establish effective regulatory oversight to prevent the escape and release of these dangerous constructs into the environment, and to consider whether some of the most dangerous experiments should be allowed to continue at all.”[5]

Red Algae: Created by Genetic Engineering?

The amazing red algae’s capabilities are described as follows: “Galdieria has acquired genes with interesting properties from different organisms, integrated them into a functional network and developed unique properties and adaptations.” What a lot of active, purposeful verbs! Did the spirit and intelligence in all living things (the “Light of Christ” or “Spirit of God”) have anything to do with the algae’s “acquiring” these enhanced genes?

Or, as in the current Darwinian evolutionary theory, is this complicated borrowing and integrating of genes just an undirected “wandering around” random event in a physical-only world of biological chemical mixing that then chanced to be an advantageous mutation that is selected? The current theory of evolution is, I believe, woefully inadequate to explain this example.[6]

Or, was this adaptation and integration complex enough to be beyond what the Light of Christ’s “being alive” power enables? Instead could it then need to be designed and created by an angelic genetic engineering project or by God Himself? Certainly, He is a Scientist and Engineer who knows far better than we do the implications of any genetic splicing in the larger environment?

4Christus“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) “I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.” (3 Nephi 9:15)

What about believing that God and celestial beings, working within natural laws, also engage in genetic engineering projects and indeed are active Creators of the world that we enjoy? What about believing that God, like an intelligent gardener, has placed plants and animals upon the earth at the appropriate time as well as preprogramming them to be able to adapt and adjust to many circumstances on their own?

God and His angels have access to far greater knowledge, skills and wisdom than mortal man currently possesses for safely manipulating genes.


  So, would we be shocked someday if we were to learn that these super-survivor red algae were indeed a result of a Celestial Genetic Engineering development effort to enhance this species?

5christThis depiction of the resurrected Christ teaching the Nephites has always seemed to me to be a good illustration of the day when the Lord “shall reveal all things.”

“He Shall Reveal All Things”

In the Doctrine and Covenants we read about a great multimedia presentation in store when the Lord returns. Those of us who have studied, struggled with and pondered about some of these issues will hopefully get good seats for this amazing revelation.

The scripture declares:

“Yea, verily I say unto you, in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things. Things which have passed, and hidden things which no man knew, things of the earth, by which it was made, and the purpose and the end thereof.” (D&C 101:32-33)

But until that time comes, hopefully, we can continue to study, ponder, learn, experiment, and understand some of the truths that will be covered in the presentation in that great and wonderful day. Hopefully, our efforts in learning toward that goal will be guided “by study and also by faith.”(D&C 88:118) 

_____________________________________


[1] Mark Edwards, “Algal Classification,” Algae Industry Magazine, June 24, 2010.

“Red algae, for example, are a large group of about 10,000 species of mostly multicellular, marine algae, including seaweed. These include coralline algae, which live symbiotically with corals, secrete calcium carbonate and play a major role in building coral reefs. Red algae such as dulse (Palmaria palmata) and laver (nori or gim) are a traditional part of European and Asian cuisine and are used to make other products such as agar, carrageenans and other food additives. … Rhodophyta – red algae”

[2] “How to Thrive in Battery Acid and Among Toxic Metals: Genome of extremophile red alga offers insights,” National Science Foundation, Press Release 13-036, March 7, 2013.

[3] “The History of a Wonderful Thing We Call Insulin,” American Diabetes Association, August 21, 2012.

“For many people, surviving life without these things [modern conveniences] sounds rough. However, if you have diabetes, no doubt you’re also a big fan of one particular 20th-century discovery: insulin.”

“Insulin now comes in many forms, from regular human insulin identical to what the body produces on its own, to ultra-rapid and ultra-long acting insulins. Thanks to decades of research, people with diabetes can choose from a variety of formulas and ways to take their insulin based on their personal needs and lifestyles. From Humalog to Novolog and insulin pens to pumps, insulin has come a long way. It may not be a cure for diabetes, but it’s literally a life saver.

“So, what’s next for insulin? Scientists aren’t sure (though they’re working hard on it!), but one thing is certain: insulin is a medical marvel in the world of diabetes.”

See also:

RPM Note: Here is a recent patent application that continues the progress of making genetic engineered insulin products more useful.

Igor Bilinsky et. al. , “Super fast-acting insulin compositions,” US20090304665A1, Filed April 28, 2009.

“Provided are combinations, compositions and kits containing an fast-acting insulin composition and a hyaluronan degrading enzyme composition formulated for parenteral administration. Such products can be used in methods of treating insulin-treatable diseases or conditions. Also provided are methods for administration of a fast-acting insulin and a hyaluronan degrading enzyme.”

Claim #1 extract: “A super fast-acting insulin composition, comprising:

A therapeutically effective amount for controlling blood glucose levels of a fast-acting insulin; and

an amount of a hyaluronan degrading enzyme sufficient to render the composition a super fast-acting insulin composition. ….”

Picture #1F: Patent figure showing time curves of various fast acting insulin formulations.

 This figure from the Bilinsky patent application graphs crucial time data for fast acting formulations compared with baseline formulations for various configurations of insulin. Note that the rHuPH20 addition to the medicine improves the activation rate for both Humalog and Humulin.

[4] “Reprogramming microbes: Genetic engineering,” BBC, page 2, 2013.

[5] Mae-Wan Ho, “Horizontal Gene Transfer – The Hidden hazards of Genetic Engineering,” 8/19/2000, Institute of Science in Society.

“Prof. Hans-Hinrich Kaatz from the University of Jena, is reported to have new evidence, as yet unpublished, that genes engineered into transgenic plants have transferred via pollen to bacteria and yeasts living in the gut of bee larvae. If Prof. Kaatz’ claim can be substantiated, it indicates that the new genes and gene-constructs introduced into transgenic crops and other transgenic organisms can spread, not just by ordinary cross-pollination or cross-breeding to closely related species, but by the genes and gene-constructs invading the genomes (the totality of the organisms’ own genetic material) of completely unrelated species, including the microorganisms living in the gut of animals eating transgenic material.”

“Horizontal gene transfer is the transfer of genetic material between cells or genomes belonging to unrelated species, by processes other than usual reproduction. In the usual process of reproduction, genes are transferred vertically from parent to offspring; and such a process can occur only within a species or between closely related species.

“Bacteria have been known to exchange genes across species barriers in nature. There are three ways in which this is accomplished. In conjugation, genetic material is passed between cells in contact; in transduction, genetic material is carried from one cell to another by infectious viruses; and in transformation, the genetic material is taken up directly by the cell from its environment. For horizontal gene transfer to be successful, the foreign genetic material must become integrated into the cell’s genome, or become stably maintained in the recipient cell in some other form. In most cases, foreign genetic material that enters a cell by accident, especially if it is from another species, will be broken down before it can incorporate into the genome. Under certain ecological conditions which are still poorly understood, foreign genetic material escapes being broken down and become incorporated in the genome. For example, heat shock and pollutants such as heavy metals can favor horizontal gene transfer; and the presence of antibiotics can increase the frequency of horizontal gene transfer 10 to 10,000 fold.


“Horizontal gene transfer is an established phenomenon. It has taken place in our evolutionary past and is continuing today. All the signs are that natural horizontal gene transfer is a regulated process, limited by species barriers and by mechanisms that break down and inactivate foreign genetic material. Unfortunately, genetic engineering has created a huge variety of artificial constructs designed to cross all species barriers and to invade essentially all genomes. Although the basic constructs are the same for all applications, some of the most dangerous may be coming from the waste disposal of contained users of transgenic organisms. These will include constructs containing cancer genes from viruses and cells from laboratories researching and developing cancer and cancer drugs, virulence genes from bacteria and viruses in pathology labs. In short, the biosphere is being exposed to all kinds of novel constructs and gene combinations that did not previously exist in nature, and may never have come into being but for genetic engineering.”

RPM Note: I believe that in today’s world most governments may be inadequate to regulate genetic engineering projects. I see such examples of corruption, crony capitalism and incompetence in our governments today that I worry that good projects will likely be stopped and dangerous ones with moneyed or privileged class support allowed. Read the book “No One Would Listen,” and think about whether the Securities and Exchange Commission really does anything useful in corporate regulation at all or whether it is all low level busywork like a boat anchor on businesses but unable to stop the cases that entail real corruption.

Harry Markopolos, “No One Would Listen,” 2010, New Jersey. 

“No One Would Listen is the thrilling story of how the Harry Markopolos, a little-known number cruncher from a Boston equity derivatives firm, and his investigative team uncovered Bernie Madoff’s scam years before it made headlines, and how they desperately tried to warn the government, the industry, and the financial press.

“Page by page, Markopolos details his pursuit of the greatest financial criminal in history, and reveals the massive fraud, governmental incompetence, and criminal collusion that has changed thousands of lives forever-as well as the world’s financial system.”

[6] Ronald P. Millett, “Elder Russell M. Nelson and Chance Evolution Fallacies,” Meridian Magazine, July 2, 2013 .

“Chance evolution proponents condescendingly critique statements like Elder Nelson’s by asserting that “evolution is not by chance’! Mutation is, but natural selection is non-random.” It is as though natural selection can make up for the low quality, without purpose, by chance’ physical mutations that feed the natural selection module of the theory.

“We ought to recognize the fallacy of the logic of this approach. The theory of evolution has a serious garbage in/garbage out’ problem. Natural selection is theorized to allow for intelligence and innovation for a living being to try to survive. However, everything selected is theorized to come from the physical only chance mutations. The output can only be as good as its input.

“If natural selection of the weak by chance’ mutation component cannot explain the examples of life that we see in the world, then the theory of evolution should be categorized as an incomplete theory.”

[7] “Oakland Temple statue of Jesus in the visitors center,” Wikipedia commons area, 2007, 

See also:

God the Father,” Gospel Topics, lds.org official LDS site, Retrieved 9/9/2013,

“God the Father is the Supreme Being in whom we believe and whom we worship. He is the ultimate Creator, Ruler, and Preserver of all things. He is perfect, has all power, and knows all things. He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s’ (D&C 130:22).”

RPM Note: These kinds of quotes do not describe a Being who must wait around for billions of years when He usually does a creative work in some shorter period of time. Especially ludicrous is the proposition that He “must not” do creative intelligent projects along the lines where we already have a beginner skill ourselves such as genetic engineering and already have seen great beneficial results.

[8] “Christ appears to the Nephites,” Book of Mormon images, Video, Audio and Images, lds.org .

This is one of my favorite paintings that was used extensively in the “Christ in America” filmstrip on my mission in Colombia in 1972.