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> Genetics in Shadowrun 4, or what gets passed on?
Meriss
post Apr 24 2007, 04:02 PM
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OK This occured to me last night. (My brain refuses to shut up some times) How much genetic information is stable in the Sixth World? Allow me to posit a situation, obviously if two elves have a child it is more than likely to be an elf. (although this is not a guarentee) But what about Awakening say you have one Awakened parent and one non Awakened, what are your chances of Awakening? Also going back to my elf example (I'm working on an elven char) Immortality, this is obviously genetic but how, does each parent contribute half the nessescary genes? Or is only one parent resonsible? Any way, discuss.
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Eryk the Red
post Apr 24 2007, 04:52 PM
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As far as I know, no one has proven the existence of a "Magic gene" in the SR world, though some research has inferred that something like it might exist. Thus far, there is no known way to genetically engineer magical ability.
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the_dunner
post Apr 24 2007, 04:54 PM
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Short answer:

It's not that simple.

Slightly longer answer:

Metagenetics (the study of genes associated with metahumanity) and Magenics (the study of the genes associated with awakening) aren't fully understood fields. Both phenotypes are known to be due to complex traits, but the number of traits and the threshold associated with the standard phenotypes is unknown. Further, not all of the genes associated with those traits have been identified. (Due to tertiary DNA structures created by the ambient mana level.) Because of this, it's not a simple odds calculation, like you'd have with a simple Dominant:Recessive phenotype.

As Immortal Elves are A) Mostly considered and urban myth B) Secretive about their immortal status and C) Extremely rare it's improbable that any laboratories have had an opportunity to study enough of them to identify the genetic basis for their phenotype.

Thorough Answer:

See SOTA 2063.
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Serial_Peacemake...
post Apr 24 2007, 04:56 PM
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Ah, and hence begun a thousand runs. I would think that the genes are as stable as they ever were, but that certain dormant genes are basically turning on. Think of it kind of like a magical puberty. When you start to mature you don't gain new genes, however new genes begin to express themselves. Various books have mentioned the idea of genetics programs to make superhumans, and that in Shadows of Asia there is a pair of pirate twins suspected of being genetically engineered. There is a suspicion that several critters are the result of genetic tampering, such as the chucapra.
Then there is I believe the idea of a "Magus Gene" tossed around in a couple books.
As to cross breeding if two different meta-types breed then there is an even chance of favoring one parent or another. However if a Ork mother has a human child there is a high chance of it goblinizing. Though personally I am unsure if that reference was to the idea that if she had a human child after breeding with another ork, or not. It must be remembered most of the metatype information has stayed the same through different editions, and it has been said to be from a rather unrelieable source originally.
I would assume that magic follows bloodlines, but most likely can go recessive depending on different factors. Actually for all anyone knows there could be dozens of different completely unrelated genes that all give you magical ability.
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Method
post Apr 24 2007, 05:03 PM
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I think the answer to most of your questions is: no one knows for sure.


Here are some other (totally speculative answers):

According to fluff that originally appeared in Shadowtech there are certain "metagenes" that are sensitive to the cyclic mana levels in the world. When the mana levels reach a certain level they are expressed. Certain alleles (coded variations) cause UGE or goblinization and others allow magical abilities.

So as far as the genes being "stable" in the human population- in principle they are already a part of the human genome today, they just won't be expressed until the mana levels reach high levels in 2014. The human genome contains an estimated 20,000-25,000 coding genes, but we only know the functions of about 58% of those. The metagenes would be part of that other 42%. They are not the result of some kind of genetic hypermutation, so they do not change over time.

It is also possible that they are inactivated through what are called "epigenetic mechanisms" which would not be worth explaining, but basically allow certain genes to be turned off until some environmental condition is met (like mana levels).

As far as heritability goes: the genes for being metahuman are heritable (probably autosomal dominant EDIT: they could also result from imprinting which allows the genes from only one parent to be expressed) but I do not believe there is any fluff that says magical ability is.


Immortality (if its genetic at all) would probably be due to an enzyme called telomerase that rebuilds the ends of the chromosomes. Every time your chromosomes are replicated the ends (called telomeres) get clipped a little shorter. Some researchers believe that this is the genetic mechanism of aging (although there are A LOT of other theories). Elves in general probably have an allele that encodes a more efficient versions of the telomerase enzyme, and immortal elves probably have an ultra-rare allele (probably autosomal recessive) that codes for a "perfect" telomerase that rebuilds the ends of the chromosomes such that they never shorten.

So in theory if your character has elven parents the chances are very good he/she will be an elf. The chances are also good that if one parent is magical you might inherit that trait (if magic is heritable at all). The chances that you would inherit an elven immortality gene are probably very very remote (like inheriting a very rare genetic disease).

Probably more info that you wanted, but my class is really boring right now...

(Edited for clarity and grammar)
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Method
post Apr 24 2007, 05:42 PM
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QUOTE (the_dunner @ Apr 24 2007, 09:54 AM)
... not all of the genes associated with those traits have been identified.  (Due to tertiary DNA structures created by the ambient mana level.).

This explanation has always seemed a little weak to me. Most gene identification is done through bioinformatics and sequence homology studies now-a-day. Tertiary structure wouldn't preclude those approaches, since the DNA would be denatured in order to sequence it.

I guess its just one of those "over explanation would be counter productive to the story we're trying to tell" kind of things. My analytical brain has problems with those sometimes... :wobble:
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Shrike30
post Apr 24 2007, 05:42 PM
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The SR world fluff has been specifically written so that you can't breed mages.

This might not have any real basis in genetics, but come on... magic exists in SR. We can throw all sorts of things out the window.
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Method
post Apr 24 2007, 05:55 PM
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QUOTE (Shrike30 @ Apr 24 2007, 10:42 AM)
The SR world fluff has been specifically written so that you can't breed mages.

This might not have any real basis in genetics, but come on... magic exists in SR.  We can throw all sorts of things out the window.

I think this is the real down and dirty answer. They should just say "it is not currently possible to genetically engineer magicians" and leave it at that. Sometimes their attempts at explaining things with science make me cringe, in part because I'm a science dork and in part because I'm a fantasy dork.

Although I think it should be noted that just because the fluff is writen to preclude mage-mutants doesn't mean there aren't factions in the SR universe that will try it... muahaha :evil:

Shrike30: totally off topic, but I see you live in Seattle (no, seriously). I'm moving there in August to continue school at the U. Is there a decent SR scene around? Is it hard to find gaming groups?
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Thane36425
post Apr 24 2007, 06:27 PM
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QUOTE (Meriss)
OK This occured to me last night. (My brain refuses to shut up some times) How much genetic information is stable in the Sixth World? Allow me to posit a situation, obviously if two elves have a child it is more than likely to be an elf. (although this is not a guarentee) But what about Awakening say you have one Awakende parent and one non Awakened, what are your chances of Awakening? Also going back to my elf example (I'm working on an elven char) Immortality, this is obviously genetic but how, does each parent contribute half the nessescary genes? Or is only one parent resonsible? Any way, discuss.

In older canon material, there were some round about references to IEs and how they got that way. It read to me like certain elves in the 4th age made some kind of deal with dragons. It was like they were some kind of servants or the like. In any case, they didn't like it and won't talk about it. And since they aren't talking and I'd rather ask Harlequinn than Lofwyr about (more likely to get a mean glare rather than ending up inside one), it will probably never be answered. Then again, it doesn't need to be.

As far as the mage genes: I would say that two mages would have the best chance of producing a magic using offspring. A mage and non mage would be next and two mundanes much less chance. It isn't impossible that a mundane couple could have magical children while a mage couple had just mundanes.

I liked how Robert Jordan handled this in the Wheel of Time series. When the male half of magic was contaminated by evil, only women worked magic and male mages were hunted down and killed. Over time, the number of mages fell because mages were no longer breeding with mages. The number of mages arising from mundanes along or mage/mundane pairings wasn't enough to keep up the population.
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Ophis
post Apr 24 2007, 06:46 PM
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The official (well at least AH's story) is that the immortal elves are the result of cross breeding between elves and dragons. Some (Alachia I think) date back to the 2nd age, and rebelled against the dragons (scarring Alamaise in the process) and set up Earthdawn's elven court. They are the reason that dragons have made breeding with humans a serious draconic crime.

Judging that Ehran the scribe's daughter is also an immortal, and the only one known to have been born in the modern world.
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maeel
post Apr 24 2007, 06:51 PM
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Actually their definition of a tertiary DNA structure is petty good.

Magic or better Mana will have to interact with the DNA directly otherwise it could not have triggered goblinization and the awakening.
there also has to be some interaction with special proteins, which appear to be expressed in certain cells depending wether the subject is a mage, an adept or a critter.

the tertiary structure is probably bringing together Parts of the genom that were normally located far from each other, possibly even on different chromosomes. under these conditions it would be extremely hard if not impossible to predict, which DNA parts form genes in tertiary structure conditions.

considered that humans are most common followed by orcs it seems plausible that these "genes by structure" are more common for the phenotype orc than for other metatypes.

But attempts to explain it with standard dominant/recessive and gonosomes/autosomes explanations would be far to simple and predictable.

About immortality:
Telomerase is very important if not the factor.
However assuming that elves have a more effective telomerase is nonsense.
Most people don't know that everybody carries some immortal cells, mostly progenitor cells in certain tissues like the lymphatic system or the testicles.

The question if a cell is mortal or not is not a question of the telomerases quality but of its expression levels. cancercells for example are immortal, because their genregulation is out of control and failsafes are disabled.

So one could say that the expression patterns of the telomerase differs from metatype to metatype.
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the_dunner
post Apr 24 2007, 07:00 PM
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QUOTE (Method)
This explanation has always seemed a little weak to me. Most gene identification is done through bioinformatics and sequence homology studies now-a-day. Tertiary structure wouldn't preclude those approaches, since the DNA would be denatured in order to sequence it.

QUOTE (Princess Bride)
"That word you keep using.  I do not think it means what you think it means."

You're correct that most gene identification is done in silico today.

However, the way that the SR authors have defined tertiary structures is not the same way that the term is traditionally used when describing RNA or protein folding.

In SR, it's intended to refer to structures that are a consequence of DNA interactions within the nucleus. Essentially, somehow (probably "magically") Polymerase III jumps off of one DNA strand, while carrying an unprocessed strand of RNA, and then picks up it's transcription on another strand of DNA. The heightened Mana level allows for this process.

Does it make sense using today's science? No, not really.

Should the genes still be identifiable using cDNA libraries? I'd certainly think so.

At the same time, if the mage genes were identified, then don't you think the Azzies would suddenly start building massive armies of awakened soldiers?

That'd quickly change the game world fairly dramatically and leave things unrecognizable.
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Pyritefoolsgold
post Apr 24 2007, 07:12 PM
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A big part of magic is the mindset of the mage. If a mage looses confidence in his magic, he can have to take on gaesa in order to continue casting at the same level. You can't code so carefully as to code a mindset. Part of that's based on experience.
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Meriss
post Apr 24 2007, 08:01 PM
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Hmmm interesting. I'm just glad I'm not the only one putting thought into this. This raises a valid point for my idea about a Human/Meta-Human Genome Project (back, back it's mine, I'll write it up when I'm good and ready)
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Method
post Apr 24 2007, 09:06 PM
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QUOTE (maeel)
the tertiary structure is probably bringing together Parts of the genom that were normally located far from each other, possibly even on different chromosomes. under these conditions it would be extremely hard if not impossible to predict, which DNA parts form genes in tertiary structure conditions.

Genes are not "formed" by DNA folding.

Identification of a gene and understanding its expression are two different things. I think that science in 2070 would be able to ID the genes, but their expression and or regulation might not be fully understood because of more complex DNA interactions (like transactivating enhancers, recombination, things like that). That is a much better explination for why they can't clone magi.

And as for telomerase: non-dividing cells are not generally the culprits of aging. Its the rapidly dividing cells that are the problem (those are where lethal cancers arise, for example).

I agree that having more telomerase would be one possibility, but telomerases are expressed at some base line in all dividing cells and their telomeres eventually get shorter. That to me implies some inate inefficincy in the telomerase enzyme (which has some randomness in its mechanism, BTW).

Up regulation of telomerase, on the other hand, is one of the things a cancer cell has to do to become immortal. If just making more telomerase was the answer all dividing the cells in and IE would be more prone to cancer. Baseline expression of a more efficient enzyme is hardly non-sense.


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Method
post Apr 24 2007, 09:13 PM
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QUOTE (the_dunner)
At the same time, if the mage genes were identified, then don't you think the Azzies would suddenly start building massive armies of awakened soldiers?

That'd quickly change the game world fairly dramatically and leave things unrecognizable.

I agree. I understand the need for a plot device that precludes mage cloning. I'm just saying that the jargon they tried to use to explain it doesn't work so well.

Magic induced recombination.
A transactivating enhancer region that is sensitive to magic.
Multipe interacting genes across the genome including a magically sensative DNA control region.
A dual natured DNA polymerase that transcribes a magically activated protein from an astral template.

Those all sound a lot cooler and defy scientific knowledge we already have today that could overcome a "tertiary structure" hurdle in a matter of a few years with some dedicated research.
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the_dunner
post Apr 24 2007, 09:40 PM
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QUOTE (Method)
Magic induced recombination.

This'd still show up just fine if you looked at cell lines generated from the correct tissues.
QUOTE
A transactivating enhancer region that is sensitive to magic. 

With 2070s technology, analysis for a common enhancer element shouldn't really be all that tough.
QUOTE
Multipe interacting genes across the genome including a magically sensative DNA control region. 

Its arguable that this is actually the same as what was presented. (You're describing a complex genetic trait with a magical trigger. In this case, the trigger allows for tertiary DNA interactions.)
QUOTE
A dual natured DNA polymerase that transcribes a magically activated protein from an astral template. 

I'm guessing you're missing a step here (RNA), but it's a cool approach to take. The problem is that it sort of dictates that you've got one master on/off switch (the polymerase gene) for magical abilities. While this could be a locus as part of a complex trait, it seems a little heavy handed.

There are a series of key problems with trying to use genetics too much in Shadowrun.
  • Within 10 years, compiling a complete DNA sequence for a given patient will be economically feasible. (So, long before the first crash.)
  • If there's a gene or a group of genes that are expressed in a tissue, a well constructed cDNA library will have those sequences, no matter how thoroughly they're processed.
  • Shadowrun computational technology is so far beyond RL technology that tasks we consider unreasonable today become trivial.
  • Combining DNA on chip technology with Shadowrun's computational powers makes bioinformatics an insanely powerful black box.
  • Shadowrun nanotech allows for genetic modifications per SOTA2063.

It's just not appropriate for the game world to allow the genetic engineering of either mages or metahumans. Because of that, everything else is handwaving.
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Method
post Apr 24 2007, 09:48 PM
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QUOTE (the_dunner @ Apr 24 2007, 02:40 PM)

QUOTE
A dual natured DNA polymerase that transcribes a magically activated protein from an astral template. 


I'm guessing you're missing a step here (RNA), but it's a cool approach to take. The problem is that it sort of dictates that you've got one master on/off switch (the polymerase gene) for magical abilities. While this could be a locus as part of a complex trait, it seems a little heavy handed.

You're right. I ment to say dual-natured RNA polymerase.

But the idea being that part of the transcription/translation process occurs in astral space with astral templates...

QUOTE
It's just not appropriate for the game world to allow the genetic engineering of either mages or metahumans.  Because of that, everything else is handwaving.


I whole-heartedly agree. :grinbig:

I guess what I'm saying is that I would be more satisfied with an explanation that was more "magical" than something we could overcome with our understanding of molecular biology right now today.

EDIT: BTW what do you do? most people don't know this much about genetics...
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the_dunner
post Apr 24 2007, 10:19 PM
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QUOTE (Method)
But the idea being that part of the transcription/translation process occurs in astral space with astral templates...

Keep in mind that what's presented in SOTA2063 is just the "current working model." ;) Much like protein was the current working model for inheritance before Watson and Crick did their magic.
QUOTE
I guess what I'm saying is that I would be more satisfied with an explanation that was more "magical" than something we could overcome with our understanding of molecular biology right now today.

I can't argue with that. The problem is that the central tenet of Shadowrun is "Where man meets Magic and Machine." Genetics is one of those areas where magic and machine come into direct conflict. To date, all of the publications about magic and genetics has focused on how the scientists look at it. There's never been a published book that addressed how a mage might look at inheritance.
QUOTE
BTW what do you do?  most people don't know this much about genetics...

Well, for Shadowrun, I run the Missions campaign. To actually pay my bills, I'm a bioinformaticist. (Currently, I'm working on a 1600 patient study to identify modifiers of disease severity in Cystic Fibrosis. Previous major projects included repetitive sequence analysis in X Chromosome inactiviation, and centromere sequence variation between humans and primates.)
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ornot
post Apr 24 2007, 10:31 PM
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Interesting discussion, although I prefer to leave my work in the lab :D
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Glayvin34
post Apr 24 2007, 10:40 PM
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I just gotta jump in here, there are a bunch of reasons a genetic event wouldn't show up on tests.

Seems to me that any specific gene that allows magic to function is a far reach to begin with. As we know, all extronic sequences code proteins that have a specific physical effect. Many somatic aspects are derived from single genes or families of genes, like secretions, bilateral symmetry, keratin, whatever, single genes or small groups of genes wherein the central dogma is followed on a (more or less) one-to-one basis:
One set of extrons is one RNA strand is one protein is one genotype and usually one phenotype.

However, with the completion of the HGP, we see that a given strand of DNA is not necessarily a given strand of cDNA. In fact, depending on RNA splicing you could have a single gene that codes for a multitude of somatic proteins. Somatic hypermutation of the T-cell antigen receptor gene comes to mind, that gene produces literally trillions of different proteins.

Magic could result from something that is overtly dual-natured, such as aspect of the body that is already mana-resonant and is not uniquely genetic, a structure in the brain formed by neonatal thought processes, perhaps. And we already know that every living thing is a little dual-natured, they project auras and get "chills" when an entity interacts with them from the Astral. So there is nothing to say that Astral plasmids aren't floating out there and interact with our mitochondria, or that some protein-based enhancers don't have an atom or two hanging out in Astral space and waiting to be bumped just the right amount. If this were the case then Magic wouldn't be inheritable, it would only occur in individuals that had their Mage gene activated at the right age. And, if the gene then turned off and only the products continued the "Magification", it would be much harder to figure out.

Or it could be a result of a protein complex. The body produces many proteins that don't do anything, so a combination of those proteins could be mana-resonant when they (randomly) combine. And, in true biological style, the presence of those mana-resonant proteins would create more mana-resonant proteins. If everyone produces those proteins and only some folks are lucky enough for them to be in just the right configuration to channel mana during gestation or early childhood, then Magic would elude genetic detection. And if those proteins were the result of longer-than-usual post-trascription processing, as many gene products are, there might not be any trackable genetic basis for Magic.
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Method
post Apr 24 2007, 10:48 PM
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dunner: Its always amazes me the kind of people you find around here. I used to do research in microbial genetics. Going back to school now...

Back on topic (kinda):

What if there was a magically induced dual-natured RNA polymerase AND an astral chromosome?

They may identify the RNA polymerase, but until somebody invents astral PCR (an a bunch of other techniques) it would be imposible to sequence (or clone) the astral chromosome...

Imagine veiwing a SEM image of a polymerase creating a mRNA from an invisible template... :wobble:
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Thane36425
post Apr 24 2007, 10:52 PM
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Something else to consider about magic and genes. In first and second edition, it was implied that totems chose shaman, not the other way around. Perhaps all magic is like that, even hermetic, just that the 6th world hasn't figured that out yet. So, Shaman still get chosen by their totems, hermetics by elemental forces. Adepts, pretty much the same, they are chosen by whatever force that is interested in boosting their abilities.

Why would this be. Well, with Shaman, the Totem expects them to live up to its ideals in the world. Hermetics wuld be doing much the same, albeit not so consciously, by their logical and scientific approach to magic. Adepts would be exemplifying the physical.

Just a theory anyway.
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maeel
post Apr 24 2007, 10:57 PM
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QUOTE
Genes are not "formed" by DNA folding. 

Really, no shit?
Maybe i used would and probably to give an explanation to something that does only exist in an environment with high mana levels. tertiary DNA structure being responsible for all mojo is what the books say. i was simply trying to make it plausible.

If u can identify the gene, then you can clone it, once u can do that u produce the protein synthetically, and everybody just has to swallow a pill and learn the skills......




so again.
1. tertiary structure is responsible according to SOTA2063 and at least for UGE that makes sense
2. Magic has no physical anchor meaning u can't clone a mage to have another mage, also provided by the rule books(SOTA2063 i believe), i just remembered that after dunner mentioned SOTA2063, so magic abilities are probably woven into an individuals soul and not its physical entity
3. I have no idea where u have your knowledge about telomerase, however, fact is that in order to make a cell immortal its telomerase has to be activated. Some cells also need CDK-I p16INK4a and tumorsuppressor pRB disabled.
tumor cells dont activate their telomerase to become immortal, this is merely a side-effect of a totally crippled gen-regulation, meaning p53 down, pRB etc etc down.

Most cell types dont have active telomerase, so after 40-60 cell divisions its game over..
The problem of aging, taken it is the only factor of aging, is not its efficiency but that it is down regulated in most cells. and there is the crux, telomeres form a D-loop which is stabilized by TRF1 and POT1 which, once in place, inhibit the telomerase, so if you have lots of telomerase it can bind all telomers and elonginate them, if you have few, all telomers will be bound by TRF1 and POT1 and there will be no elongination.
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Glayvin34
post Apr 24 2007, 11:02 PM
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QUOTE (Method)
What if there was a magically induced dual-natured RNA polymerase AND an astral chromosome?

It seems to me that Astral space doesn't conform to terrestrial physics, but rather to mental constructs. Astral space doesn't seem to be composed of atoms in the classical sense. And if you had a chromosome free-wheeling in the Astral, couldn't a spirit come along and break it or snatch it away or something?
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