Even though Halloween has passed, this didn’t stop a team at Tufts University which conducted an experiment making flatworms become Frankenstein’s monster with the help of scientists. Well, more like an experiment conducted on the island of doctor Moreau more so than doctor’s Frankenstein attempt at resurrection.
The group helped the subjects belonging to a species of flatworm develop different heads pertaining to other similar species of flatworms without attempting to change their genetic sequence in any way. The process of basically growing the head of another species on the target subject is greatly helped by their relative position to one another on the evolutionary ladder. The closer they are, the better the results which are offered by said experiment.
This results was attainable by modifying the electrical synapses in the cells of the target flatworm through small electrical impulses mimicking the ones found in its cousins, they could carefully trick the flatworm to think it belongs to another species, thus modifying its appearance and body structure to match the cell synapses.
By making this experiment possible, scientists could further obtain information regarding the process through which a body is formed, interdependently from its genome. The genetic sequence acts like a plan or a blueprint of the body to which the various cells must abide in order to create a functional body, as instructed. The process through which the cells know what to do is by using the electrical synapses within themselves. By changing these synapses, the cells simply did not read the plan and made something else. It’s like you ask your construction workers to build a normal building and they accidentally build a taller and slimmer one because they misread the original architectural plan.
An interesting fact that this experiment pointed to was that compared to normal gene splicing, this type of transformation is not permanent. After a month or so, the target flatworm slowly started to change to its original shape and internal structure if left alone, because the synapses will eventually revert to their original place and the cells will stick to the gene plan once again. But further experiments must be conducted in order to better understand the process at hand.
Even if the experiments results showed how flatworms become Frankenstein’s monster with the help of scientists, its application in other subjects belonging to other species will have to wait for further inquiries on the subject. The next in this experiment will probably be to see how far off two species can be in order for the altering process to still be a success. Just imagine the possibilities if this could be applied to more complex species, you could basically turn your dog into a fox or a wolf for a week.