Moscow| Russian scientists have just accomplished an incredible feat which could represent a major breakthrough in the domain of genetics: they were able to grow some functioning gills on a 27-year old man by adding some fish genes to his DNA strand.
The young patient, a scuba diving enthusiast named Alexei Olegovich Zakharchenko, volunteered for the experiment in 2012, hoping to be able to breath underwater without a diving mask.
The scientists of the Laboratory of Human Molecular Genetics of the N.I. Pirogov Russian State Medical University, led by Professor Ivan Arturovich Vedenin, were able to modify the man’s DNA permanently after almost two years of constant treatment, causing his body to change drastically.
Mr. Zakharchenko is now able to breath underwater, but only to some extent, as his lungs are stills adapting to the apparition of his new breathing organs.
“It’s a really strange feeling to breath underwater,” claims the young man. “I can really inhale some air and all, but I still feel a bit like I’m drowning… But it’s still awesome. Soon, I’ll be able to dive without any equipment, just like a fish!”
Professor Vedenin says the “drowning” sensation should disappear over the next few months, as his body adapts and get used to receiving oxygen from the gills.
“It is totally normal for such major physical changes to necessitate a time of adaptation,” says the famous geneticist. “The important thing is that it works! If everything goes as planned, he should be fully capable of breathing underwater in about six months.”
Mr. Zakharchenko will now continue his treatment and training for a few months, in order to fully adapt to his new organs.
He then hopes to be able to tour around the world in order to scuba dive and sing the praises of Russian biotechnology. He hopes that his example will encourage others to go through the same operation, and will be able to enjoy being underwater as much as he does.