On the collection of Russian DNA by the US
A letter from another scientist:
It was striking to me that the American agencies were interested in samples from skeletal muscle and presumably the nerve endings running to the muscle as well which would be mixed in with any biopsy.
Decades ago I recall that a scientist who was studying the junction between nerve and muscle was getting funding from some arm of the Military Security Complex. Why? Well toxins act on this junction disrupting the chemical connection that links motor neuron to muscle cell. One example of such an agent is curare which breaks the connection by competing with the neuromuscular transmitter, acetylcholine, for the acetylcholine receptor and hence blocking muscle contraction. Death comes quickly from paralysis of the diaphragmatic muscle which leads to suffocation.
Organophosphates like Sarin also act at the neuromuscular junction and other sites in a more complicated way than curare.
The interest at that time was apparently to see whether an Asian variant of the receptor for acetylcohline could be found. Nerve agents specific for the Asian variant could then be developed and could then be used with impunity in battle without any worry to caucasians. Or so hoped the Pentagon. Perhaps now they are looking for a Russian variant, that is a part of the structure of the receptor that is unique to all or very many Russians. Then presumably a Russian specific agent like curare could be found. Or maybe Sarin. Years ago that did not seem possible but perhaps it is possible now. I can only speculate. But that could be one use. The region of the muscle near the neuron ending would be rich in the RNA that makes this acetylcholine receptor and the DNA there would be active. Maybe with today’s technologies that helps.