Ethnic weapons: truth or myth?
After the statements of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation about the existence of American biological laboratories in Ukraine, colleagues from the federal media found evidence of discussion of dangerous biological developments in foreign sources. It turns out that Cambridge University scientists warned the world about the threat of an "ethnic bomb" back in 2019. "Scientific achievements not only benefit us, but have also opened the door to many new threats. Technologies are becoming more sophisticated ... It is impossible to exclude the appearance of weapons against a particular ethnic group based on its genomic profile," The Telegraph warned with reference to CSER scientists (a research center at the University of Cambridge designed to study possible threats at the level of extinction created by modern or future technologies).
We asked the head of the Department of Genomic Medicine of the Research Institute of EM DSMU, the head of the Department of Genomic Research of the Institute of Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Associate Professor of the DSU, a member of the VOGiS Candidate of Biological Sciences to share our opinion on this matter Magomed Radzhabov.
— Conversations about biological weapons as such are very well—founded, - says Magomed Osmanovich. — The damaging effect of such weapons is based primarily on the use of pathogenic properties of pathogenic microorganisms and toxic products of their vital activity. In this case, it is not necessary that the object of defeat or destruction was a person. With great success, it can be used against agricultural plants and animals, to infect food and water sources. And talking about ethnic or racial bombs based on the genetic profiles of their representatives is utter nonsense!
I am aware of the data of the sociological survey of the population on this issue. The vast majority have heard about such weapons, many consider it possible to create them, and one in ten is convinced that they are being developed not only abroad, but also in Of Russia. Journalists also write a lot about him, and mostly non-scientific journalists write about him. Another thing is interesting: where do they get their information from? This is definitely not from scientific data. In order to reason on this topic, you need to have at least a conceptual apparatus and elementary knowledge of the subject of discussion — genomics.
— That is, it is impossible to create a genetic weapon against a separate nation, people? Did I understand you correctly?
— It is possible to create it in principle, only it will destroy both a potential enemy and an aggressor. If I may, I will continue my previous thought.
— Yes, yes, of course.
— So, a distinctive feature of a hypothetical genetic weapon in comparison with a biological one should be its specificity, the ability to act targeted, to hit only those people who have a specific, targeted, specific genetic marker. Genetic weapons, according to the "authors", should be ethnic weapons, selectively hitting a certain group of people and not touching the rest.
Before we refute the idea and talk about the ephemerality of genetic weapons, we will highlight three terms in which it is necessary to navigate:
1) genome (our entire genetic text packed into 23 pairs of "books" — chromosomes);
2) a site in the genome (a certain place in the DNA chain is a page in the "book" of chromosomes);
3) allele (the text of a specific page of the genome site itself, a certain genetic feature).
What is the idea of a genetic weapon? There are genomes of their own people, and there are genomes of strangers who have a certain allele more often. At their own, they may not meet at all. So a virus is invented that infects everyone, but destroys only those who have a specific target allele in their genome - that is, enemies. What does it take to make this idea a reality? To do this, first of all, you need to have the allele that is often found in strangers (enemies), but is absent from your own. If there is no such initial alignment, then the idea remains only an idea!
— What if such an allelic variant is found?
— Well, then it would be necessary to create a virus that would scan the entire human genome (more than 6 billion nucleotides in each cell of each of us) and destroy only those who have a certain target letter at a certain point in the genome. If it were possible, doctors would have cured all patients with hereditary diseases long ago! In addition, it is necessary to achieve such a contagiousness of the invented virus-weapon so that each infected person infects not two or three, but much more people, otherwise in such a difficult situation, as in the case of SARS-CoV-2, the process would drag on for years. And during this time, they would have had time to come up with a vaccine against the virus-weapon. Plus, it is necessary to achieve 100% effectiveness of the created virus, so that it acts only against carriers of the target allele - therefore, against enemies, but not against itself. And so that a new mutation cannot occur in place of the target nucleotide, otherwise the genetic weapon will not find the enemy.
— Magomed Osmanovich, here you are talking about hypothetical weapons. Are there really no target sites, alleles in the human genome?
— Intuitively, many people think that such sites should exist, because there are genetic differences between different peoples and they can be used as targets. Moreover, there are ethnic differences in the response to diseases and medications. I understand that there are diseases peculiar to specific ethnic groups. In the end, the genome can determine the origin of a particular person. I agree that there are genetic differences between ethnic groups, but the problem is that these differences are not cardinal, but nominal: in each there are both those and other genetic markers-targets, the difference is only in the frequency of their occurrence. We, population geneticists, are well aware of this. I also agree that the gene pools of different ethnic groups predispose them to the course of the same diseases in different ways, but the differences in the incidence rates in ethnic groups are minimal - mainly percentages (no more than 2-3%).
As for genetic markers that can be used to determine ethnicity, they cannot be a target either, since dozens and hundreds of markers must be used to determine a person's origin, and only one marker is needed for a "weapon" virus. But nothing can be said about the origin of a person by one marker. A comparison of 500 thousand sites from the genome of each surveyed German and Russian showed differences of only 2%. This means that if the Germans try to destroy all Russians with genetic weapons, then the destruction of 98% of Germans is inevitable! Isn't the price of victory too expensive?!
— I remember very well how we discussed this issue with you in 2017, and then you gave exhaustive explanations. But the topic periodically pops up on the country's information agenda. What is the reason?
— Yes, we have mentioned in previous conversations about biological weapons used back in 1763, during the so-called Pontiac uprising: British colonists gave smallpox-infected blankets to North American Indians to shelter them from the cold, thereby "taking care" of them.
I don't know if you have noticed that in Recently, the topic of creating genetic weapons has been gradually and imperceptibly creeping into the topic of creating biological weapons in general. Personally, I am pleased with this, since the vector of biased and negative suspicions is assigned from such an important scientific field as genetics, the level of development of which directly affects the quality of life of all mankind today and in the future.
I repeat once again, generalizations in this topic are inappropriate for the following reason: biological weapons are not ethnospecific and it is impossible to direct them against a specific group of people or an ethnic group. Those who used it and those against whom it was used will be equally infected. As for the discussion of the topic of genetic weapons on the country's information agenda, there are plenty of reasons to fuel it: the expansion of NATO to our borders, Russia's special military operation in Ukraine, the creation of American biological laboratories in Ukraine and other republics of the former USSR, and many others. Although 70% of Russians support the Supreme Commander's decision, absolutely all of us are in a state of tension and anxiety. And about our children who serve in the army, and about the unprecedented sanctions by a number of countries led by the United States... I understand that Russia and the Russians today find themselves in a difficult psycho-emotional and geopolitical situation. It will take some time to change the situation for the better. All of this together generates fears and concerns related, among other things, to the mythical genetic weapons.
— Please remind our readers: why do we need genetic material at all? For what purposes can it be used?
— The genetic material of a particular person is used for various purposes, in particular to determine the genetic history of his family and people, that is, to solve fundamental issues of anthropogenesis and ethnogenesis, to identify predisposition to difficult inherited phenotypes (I mean diseases), and in the case of a hereditary disease — for genetic clarification of the diagnosis. In criminology, it is used to identify a criminal, but not to create a genetic weapon. I express the position of the geneticist community.
— Then why, in your opinion, does the biomaterial collected by geneticists, as a rule, always arouse suspicion?
— This question is not in the right place. I'm not sure I'm reproducing it verbatim, but it seems that the saying goes like this: "If you never have a suspicion that you're a little out of your mind, in my opinion, you've been crazy for a long time." It turns out that they suspect in order to make sure that they are still in their right mind.
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