From: Michael Sprotte
with delight and emphasis I'm just reading your novel "Quantico". Once more a great one!
I wonder, if Chao's description of Agent Winter's genetic physic's structure is more "fiction" or near to "science".
May I get more information of this item by you? Which are your sources?
From: Greg Bear
Thanks for writing, Michael! To the best of my knowledge, we have yet to find a chimeric individual quite like
former Special Agent Winter. Just in the news recently, however, we have an example of "fetus in fetu," or a boy born with its partially developed twin in its abdomen. (Both Henry S. Whitehead and Stephen King have written about absorbed twins, quite effectively.) Twins united and born as one completely healthy, integrated individual are likely extremely rare, but I suspect they're out there. Winter's case--well, let's not make this a spoiler for the rest of the readers!
I saw a documentary recently about real-life chimeras, very interesting it was too. There's very little reason for any chimera to come to public notice for any reason other than an unusual medical problem or a criminal investigation I suppose. There were examples of people with different DNA profiles related to their reproductive organs, the case of a woman who was apparently unrelated to her own children was very interesting.
I was particularly taken with one image of a chimera's torso: it had what I can only describe as a "checkerboard" pattern, where one skin tone was obviously different to the other. It was symmetrical down the middle with alternate skin tones on one side then the other. I had no idea that the human body could possibly divide itself like that, with perfectly rectangular skin borders, I would have said it was impossible if I hadn't seen it. I have no idea if symmetrical organs (such as eyes for example) could have different DNA profiles but after looking at the torso images I guess anything might be possible :)
From: Greg Bear
Fascinating stuff, David! The study of chimeric individuals is just getting started. Who knows what nature can cook up, under the right circumstances? After all, genetics is all about customization and making things work together...
From: David Markwick
Location: United Kingdom
Thinking about it further, I suppose one beneficial advantage to studying chimeric individuals is in the field of transplant surgery. Getting different DNA profiles to live withing the same body without a lifetime dependant on suppressive drugs can only be A Good Thing :)
If the technology can be extended further then the dream of growing human-compatible organs from animals (as I have read is being researched) is possible. And so much more besides, I wonder where it can possibly lead.
From: Greg Bear
Indeed. A lot of interesting questions here--the biggest being, how do cells of differing genotypes learn to get along with each other?
GregBear.com is currently being updated and new comments to the discussion board have been paused until the new site is ready on September 6, 2015. Please check back then!