Here’s how we can build a Jurassic Park in the real world

Almost 30 years after the film, the debate on genetic engineering is back, with scientists now able to "bring back to life" dinosaurs.

It was 1993 when Jurassic Park debuted in theaters. And yet, almost 30 years after its release, the charm of Steven Spielberg's masterpiece is still very much in vogue. You want for the brutal seduction exercised by the dinosaurs, you want for that pinch of science mixed with the ever pulsating human ambition, you want for the strong vibe of the '90s.

All the teenagers of those years know the story of the incredible Jurassic Park directed by John Hammond, inspired by the novel written by Michael Crichton. However, not everyone knows that the book is based on no less than a scientific article published in Science magazine in 1982, which mentioned the discovery of a fly perfectly preserved in amber. Since then, fantasizing about bringing back to life creatures now extinct has become more concrete, thanks to the immediate success of the novel and film. So much so that scientists themselves have wondered, in 2021, whether it would be possible with current technology to make a real-life Jurassic Park.

"They were so worried about being able to do it that they didn't think about whether they should do it."

Let's start at the beginning, when one of the founders of Neuralink - a well-known neurotechnology company - tweeted that his company could probably build a real Jurassic Park if it wanted to. Of course, under certain conditions, with dinosaurs not exactly authentic on a genetic level and dangerously close to creating new hybrid species. A demonstration of power, that of Max Hodak, which opens again an obvious moral question, flowing into the philosophy and ethics regarding genetic engineering. Exactly as in Spielberg's film.

"They were so worried about being able to do it that they didn't think about whether they should do it," says Professor Ian Malcolm in a famous line from the first Jurassic Park. On the other hand, playing God is never a good idea, although modern technological possibilities could apparently bring dinosaurs - or very similar creatures - back to Earth.

The same Hodak, in the name of biodiversity, explained that before we can recreate these creatures now extinct we need one thing essential: their DNA. Usually the genetic heritage of such ancient creatures, searched for in insects trapped in fossil amber, comes to us too spoiled. So we'd have to supplement it with pieces of DNA from other species - you'll remember it was a toad in the movie. Even if scientists were to find the genetic material, though, the process would be very different from the one depicted in the movie saga. "We can get collagen and some dinosaur proteins, but not all the material we need," said paleontologist Jack Horner in the scientific journal How It Works.

Jack Horner is the real-life paleontologist who inspired Alan Grant's character in Jurassic Park, and incredibly firsthand he's trying to make a dinosaur in his lab. It is called Project dino-chicken and it is mainly based on genetic engineering, and the use of chickens for testing. All species of birds are in fact related to each other and have a common ancestor, the dinosaurs.

Obviously, the research is still light years away, but knowing that it is actually underway certainly makes us think and bring to mind the famous warning of Malcolm.

Andrea Guerriero