Could genetic modifications become hereditary over time? If so could they evolve over time similar to regular genes? For example making carbon fibre bones for whatever reason would they eventually become a regular genetic trait?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ by definition if it is genetic it s already a regular hereditary trait. As long as the germ cells are also altered it will be passed on. I'm not really sure what you are asking. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Sep 21 '18 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean a genetic modification that would result in an embryo growing carbon fiber bones? The (trivial) answer is yes, any genetic modification that doesn't kill the patient can become hereditary (so long as its in the DNA/Chromosomes). However, this only works within the world of biology. I'm not convinced you can biologically create carbon fiber. But, I'm not a biologist. $\endgroup$ Dec 27 '18 at 22:40

If the modification happens on someone's germline cells, it becomes hereditary.

Notice that modifying zygotes, or an embryo, tends to have much the same effect, since germline cells will develop from those.

Once it becomes hereditary, such modified genes will follow all the same rules as any other genes.

Remember, every single gene existing in nature today is a mutation from some previous gene, all the way back in history to the very first RNA strand.

If you're just doing something localized though, like infecting only your liver with a modified adenovirus to get more alcohol resistance, then your kids probably won't get it from you.

  • $\begingroup$ Shouldn't "gonad cells" be "germline cells"? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 21 '18 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ +1. FWIW, this is also the case for epigenetics $\endgroup$ Sep 21 '18 at 17:05

They can. Maybe.

As @Renan pointed out, as long as you modify the eggs and the sperm producing cells, it can be passed on.

However, and this is the big question:

Can the embryo and/or the infant survive with the modifications. A lot happens in the first few weeks (and then over the first few years).

The common thought is that even zero-G will interfere with the development of the fetus because the chemical processes are so balanced for the process in 1G. It would take careful experimentation or great luck to get genetic modifications that allow for a viable fetus.

After birth there is a lot happening in a growing child. For example: if they grow too fast, their joints may not develop properly. Then we get into puberty and everything that happens then.

So, my answer is it is possible but not probable.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.