Archive for the ‘week_6’ Category

Week6: Biotechnology_Heeseok Lee

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

The science of genetic engineering, also referred to as biotechnology, first came into the scientific realm in the 1970’s. This recent technology offered a new way to manipulate an organism of a population of organisms. Researchers and scientists from around the world were thrilled at the upcoming knowledge that could answer many of their questions dealing with all aspects of genetics. The new genetic engineering technology was never meant to hurt individuals. On the contrary, it offered promises of manipulating the molecules that make up the genetics of living matter in order to benefit, even save, an individual’s life. Although genetic engineering promises good fortune for the human race, many questions have been raised pertaining to issues concerning safety, necessity, and, most of all, morality of the entire enterprise. It has been shown through the years, that genetic engineering not only provides great risks to men, women, and children but also presents potential dangers to the environment. True, genetic engineering can have numerous medical advantages, but overall, it is a detrimental procedure to the advancement of humanity. The subject of genetic engineering performed on humans has achieved great acclaim as well as great opposition. Some people say that genetic engineering is beneficial to society while others argue that it should be halted. gmo_tomato__451868_cut
I personally think that genetic engineering grants lots of benefits to individual, whole society, even all humans. For one thing, chronic and fatal diseases can be avoided before they strike. Many lives, as well as medical dollars, could be saved if doctors could identify individuals that have a likelihood of developing heart disease, cancer, and other fatal diseases. If genetic engineering is allowed to continue, there might even someday be a cure for heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and even AIDS. Genetic engineering might also be used to correct genetic disorders. Genetic screening can also detect problems during pregnancy. Discovery of genetic deformities at an early stage of pregnancy introduces the possibility of treating the fetus by replacing or repairing imperfect genes, aborting the fetus, or allowing parents time to plan proper care after birth. Such deformities and birth defects can be controlled with genetic engineering technology. Genetic procedures are also used for infertility problems. These days, for example, artificial insemination permits a female to carry a child by an unknown donor whose sperm can now be examined for genetic health. Genetic engineering might also help elderly people. Through cloning-a procedure in which an organism or gene is duplicated from the original and incorporates precise genetic makeup – the elderly are able to deal with infections diseases, heart and, kidney problems, and even cancer. Aging individuals, who remain healthy because of such manipulations, support themselves with little or no cost to the rest of the population. Scientists are only beginning to explore the dangers and benefits of genetic engineering. Yet, instead of seeing the immense potential benefits, much of the American public is rejecting this field of research. Much of this unfounded fear is based upon memories of poorly researched science fiction novels, fear of the unknown, Even though the risks are great, the beneficial possibilities are endless. Genetic engineering should be allowed to progress because of the potential benefits for the human species outweigh the consequences. For example, It will be possible for cows to will be genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals in their milk. This means that that vaccination shots and pills would become obsolete. Babies could be brought up immune to diseases by simply being fed this milk. Imagine the impact on the quality of life for people who live in third world countries like Somalia. Whole countries could be made healthy and immune to disease.
Here is a youtube link discussing about advantage of genetic engineering. It is implying how genetic engineering can resolve human famine problem and gives chance to developing countries. Check this article, too.

Week 6_by brittany santoyo

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

With the discussion of Biotechnology, a thought occurs into my head of a process employed in both Star Wars; The Empire Strikes Back and Austin Powers; The Spy Who Shagged Me. This technique is called Cryogenics and is the procedure of “freezing” an organism or an object in order to preserve it in the future. This is done at a temperature of around three hundred degrees below. This process can be useful in several different ways.

For instance, it is well known that the famous, great Walt Elias Disney supposedly underwent the relatively new process of Cryogenics right after he lost his battle with lung cancer. However, is this scientific method at all trustworthy or even plausible. As of this moment, there are ninety one people who believe this to be the case, then again, this group of ninety one are very exceptional, considering they are no longer with us here on Earth. These people chose to have their bodies (just past the line of death) injected with shots in order to decrease the amount of damage that dead inflicts on the organs and on the brain. Then, they are frozen slightly with the use of ice and next become a shockingly three hundred degree below popsicle, to say the least. These people lay their heads to rest with optimism in the world of the sciences to encounter a way to reverse the damage of death and ultimately bring them back to life someday. There is much speculation on this matter because it is, in a sense, “acting as a god” in giving people back the breath that they once held in their lungs and he blood that before flowed through their veins with incredible ease. My opinion is that if a person chooses to prolong his or her life after death and has to their name an extra twenty eight thousand dollars (about the price of freezing a person with storage fee included), let them do as they please without criticism.  visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pnf0gnfvvJA

With this process as inspiration, a new technique under study arises. If a body can be preserved, how does an object react to extremely cold temperatures? Well, it is proven that objects such as a car engine’s or a tennis racket’s performance is significantly increased. The freezing (again the item under experiment is placed at about three hundred degrees below) reshapes an object’s molecular structure so that after it “thaws” out, its molecular bonds are extensively, and more uniformly, closer together. This allows the object to be more bearable to rougher conditions and more able to have wear and tear inflicted on it without any noteworthy implications. This, in turn, increases the lifespan, durability, and essentially makes the person who is using it look even more competent without the slightest bit of knowledge as to what he is doing. To learn more about this topic, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=974UMSY7hC0&feature=related

I believe science can do many things, even things no one ever even contemplated in one’s wildest dreams could ever be possible. On the other hand though, I think that we have a long way to go before anything related to bringing people back to life is possible. I, personally, would never participate in the procedure because I believe that what is supposed to occur will always dominate. Therefore, if I am intended to die at a particular point, I will die one way or another. However, I do think it would be jaw-droppingly awesome if this method would be able to be put in practice because it would, without a doubt, be defying the odds.

by Brittany Santoyo

ethics of biotechnology in “production”- Diar Nejadeh

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Interestingly, before week 6, in the past discussion, we had a heated debate on the ethics of the new octoplet mother.  Incorporating our latest conversation on biotechnology, I am left again pondering the ethics of inducing pregnancy for a mother who clearly cannot conceive a child without the aid of a male’s sperm donation.  The larger question, which has been raised in the controversy of the octoplet mother, is the dichotomy between persons rights to reproduction and that persons ability to raise a child properly (e.g. money).  In addition, to this dichotomy, is the larger complications that occur with the procedure of invetrofertalization that often lends to multiple births and child birth defects. 

In the case of Nadya Sulemon, the octoplet mother, is currently on welfare and has been accused by some to be an unfit mother not only due to her financial situation, but also her mental state.  In section A’s week 5 discussion, it became clear that many have strong opinions in regards to welfare, poverty, and social disparities.  In regards to Nadya Sulemon, if other women are able to use sperm donors and become pregnant, who can be the authority to regulate who is “fit” for parenthood.  For those who are able to become pregnant without reproductive aid they are not limited by their financial status or furthermore mental status.  In addition many “fit” parents, by some definitions, are without the ability to conceive without the help of new technologies.  The octoplet mother is clearly an extreme case, and although a number of her children now have birth defects, many children are born with birth defects when pregnancy occurs in older parents (eg. 40+). 

The same questions can be asked in regards to genetically modified foods, that are produced to increase the “durability” of foods through molecular biology technologies. 

 images1by Diar Nejadeh

Week6/Biotechnology/Justin Kiang

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Biotechnology, often referred as genetic engineering, is a modern technology based on biology. Often used in medicine and agriculture, biotechnology has been promising to improve the quality of life. According to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, biotechnology is defined as:

Any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use.

Scientists around has been thrilled about this new technology, as some believed that this knowledge can be the ultimate answer to all the questions and problem regarding genetics. This technology is believed to have the power to improve, and even save lives of living creatures by manipulating genetics flaws. As we have seen in class, there has been research to modify a fetus’s genetic makeup, resulting in a baby born without cancer genes. The study of using genetic engineering as a defense against cancer, has been giving very promising results. Another inevitable example of this technology is its application on agriculture. After all, plants provide us with the food we need to survive. The benefit of applying genetic on plants is obvious. Nutrition value is enhanced scientifically, which directly benefits the plant consumer’s health. The cost of growing plants is also reduced, as problematic genes that inhibit plants from growing properly can be scientifically, and resistance to cold, drought, salinity and other natural growth inhibiting factors can be genetically intercalated into plants.

However, debate over said technology has risen over years. Opposing arguments mainly include the safety and humanity concerns. For thousands of years, people have been eating naturally grown agricultural products. The genetic make up of these products has been diversified through ages of natural selection. Could any artificial modifications such as applying biotechnology to enhance agricultural products possibly disrupt the process of natural selection? Could we possibly disrupt the natural equilibrium? The food industries will of course argue that we have been consuming genetically modified products for decades, and so far there haven’t been any harmful side effects. This is true, but it does not indicate that no complications will ever appear as the result of genetically modifying natural products. We definitely need responsible, informed people to establish laws on the use of biotechnology, and since biotechnology is a relatively new area of science, we need to accurately inform the public about the detailed use of biotechnology.

In my opinion, genetic engineering can potentially be very advantageous to the evolution of human being. As mentioned before, quality of life can be greatly improved through biotechnology. However, as this field of science is still relatively young and immature, and can be inherently unpredictable. We cannot assume that it is completely safe to our health, until better testing method is developed. We have little knowledge about the effects of these modification in a longer time, say 20 years. It has been well established that genetic structure is complex to an extend that even hundreds of years of investigation still cannot unveil all parts of it. Not all the effect of introducing foreign genes into existing genetic structures are tested yet. So before further testing method and observation are carried out, I believe that biotechnology should stay in laboratories.

By Justin Kiang

Week6_Biotech - What price is too high?

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

The latter parts of this week’s lectures consisted of a lot of biotechnology in the realm of food and agriculture. We looked at the decomposition of fast food, and the cloning of sheep, and some of the ethics of it, but what about the stripped down, simple issue of meat.

I’d say most American teenagers have some sort of contact with the food industry in high school (unless you were one of the luckier retail workers), and my own personal experience was over about a year working for a little place called In-N-Out. Don’t worry, no horror stories. All of the employees and all of the food preparation and cooking was actually extremely clean, even beyond my standards. It made me more comfortable eating fast food even. But I never took into account what really happened before we got in our shipments of fresh, quality hamburger patties.

Now I’m no PETA representative, but less than a year ago in April of 2008 one of their representatives announced a $1,000,000 prize for the scientist that comes up with a practical way to produce meat in a lab. (I found the article in a research database and since it’s not likely the reader has the password I’ve reproduced it below. Click to read the article and the rest of my post.)

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Week 6 _Biotechnology

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Over the past few years, the fields of biotechnology, genomics, and genetic engineering have developed very fast. It created many different kinds of artists such as bio-artist, artist using DNA chips etc. Each artist reply on the way to the growth development of emerging disciplines such as biotechnology and genetics indicates that these fields are tremendously powerful with social and ethical. Especially, this shows they require for them to turn out being a part of the artistic discourse. Artists have been reacting to such challenges and seeking to build up applicable bio-art projects that have connection between the artwork and living organisms by running with genetic technology. I would like to introduce some examples of bio-art and its applications, and also a controversy in applications of Biotechnology.

In the lecture note, professor mentioned Eduardo Kac’s GFT Bunny. In his 1999 piece Genesis, artist Eduardo Kac prearranged text writing into DNA and then put in the sequence of the DNA into bacteria. Genetic artists: Stay away from the Bible. The combination of new technology with early religious text is all too careless and clear. In GFP Bunny (2000), Kac make a transgenic rabbit with a gene obtained from a jellyfish.  The jellyfish constructs it shine glowing green. Kac named the bunny Alba and said that “she immediately awoke in me a strong and urgent sense of responsibility for her well-being.” As part of the project, Kac made a plan which is bringing Alba home and mix her into his family life. Kac started on “an international campaign to obtain her freedom”: The “Free Alba!” series. A few scientists have suggested that images of Alba were Photoshopped to appear more brightly green than the bunny would actually be.

Another application is cellular automata as professor mentioned in the Tuesday lecture.Cellular automata are arithmetical idolizations of innate organizations.They would be composed of a network of discrete alike sites, each site taking up a restricted set of, say, integer values. The values of the sites grow in discrete time steps according to deterministic rules that specify the value of each site in terms of the values of adjacent sites. Cellular automata could be regarded as discrete idealizations of differential equations often used to describe natural systems.

One of the most significant considerations of a scientist planning a research project is experimental design. The design process begins with several questions: What do I pull together as I am doing a experiment in the lab? What characteristics do I organize? What examinations should I calculate? How many times should I repeat the experiment to get better result? What kind of relationship does what I am going to do have to understanding nature? There are accordingly a number of practical considerations which go into the planning of experiment of Cellular automata. The patterns of the Cellular automata system should, as they develop, supply a helpful depiction of the actual chemical observable fact that is being examined. In a successful reproduction the solution well-known features of the physical, chemical or other procedure should be appropriately repeated.

We also saw the picture of Dolly in the lecture slide. Dolly and other animals cloned from adult cells allow researchers to address about genetics and development that were not possible before. Additionally, the arrival of Dolly has opened the doors to a new world of possibilities. For example, most mammalian genetic research is currently conducted in mice, because their origins are the easiest to control. However, the seeking in a mouse is not always applicable to humans, because of their genetic differences. Sheep are biologically similar to humans, so the outlook of engineering sheep may lead the way to superior animal models of human disease. However, there are numerous ethical and moral questions raised by the prospect of cloning which are too many and too complex to be discussed here. Cloning, the development of biotechnology, have many problems. First, human are maintained their dignity by cloned human. Human has own bodies, personality. But if this balance is broken, human will be in danger.

 

A photo of Dolly the Sheep, the most famous cloned animal, and the predecessor to cloned humans

 

 

A photo of Dolly the Sheep, the most famous cloned animal, and the predecessor to cloned humans

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junki Chae

 

 

 

Week 6 - Biotechnology Replacing Evolution - Miki Koga

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Biotechnology connects science, industry, mathematics, computers, robotics, medicine, art, agriculture, and more. It is difficult to precisely define it, as it combines and draws from such broad-ranging disciplines. One thing for certain is that it has the power to redefine our future. Of course, power in the wrong hands may lead to trouble…

Just as Professor Vesna googled “DNA” and came up with assorted information in the first two pages, my Internet search of biotechnology reaped interesting results. The article sub-headline “Biotech Entrepreneur Says Human Self-Design May Replace Evolution” instantly grabbed my attention. As author Lise Buyer wishes Charles Darwin a happy 200th birthday on Feb. 11th, she uses it as a perfect segway into discussing the future of evolution. Apparently, Juan Enriquez, chairman and CEO of Biotechonomy, has boldly proposed “that science is bringing us ever-closer to a time when natural selection may yield to human self-design.” That is, humans will control evolution. Buyer breaks down the evolutionary process of speciation, where new biological species are formed. The genetic makeup of a species evolves into two or more related but structurally unique species. Gradually, traits of the new species become so distinguished from those of its ancestors that the genetic code no longer matches the parent species’. In fact, the species can no longer reproduce with another species descended from the same parent. A key driver of speciation is natural selection. It is the process by which advantageous genetic traits are passed on to future generations, as organisms best suited to survive in a particular environment achieve greater reproductive success. With our definitions refreshed, we can look deeper into Enrique’s proposal.

At the 2009 Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference in Long Beach last week, Enriquez pointed out that “the fact that we are the only living species of humans is an anomaly – or at least out of sync with history. Millions of years ago, there were as many as five different species of humans co-existing on the planet”. He considers whether modern humans are the end-result of all evolution. Have we reached the pinnacle of natural selection? If that is the case, I am afraid that may also place us at the brink of extinction, a dreary thought. However, Enriquez looks at it differently. He predicts the potential for a “new and utterly unique species” that he calls Homo Evolutis and claims will take “direct and deliberate control over [its own] evolution.” Essentially, biotechnology will replace evolution with humans at the driver’s seat.

Genetic changes in a single species occur gradually over long periods of time. However, humans have already engineered otherwise. Enriquez highlighted human-engineered genetic experiments that have successfully transformed cells into completely different cells, added extra wings to chickens (like the winged pig from class), regenerated tissue, and bioengineered replacements for failing vital organs. It may only be a matter of time until scientists apply this to a greater scale.

I’m afraid this may just be the height of arrogance. Humans are already the dominant species on Earth and our very dominance has significantly affected the worldwide environment. It has further led to the extinction of other species that we share our world with. Biotechnology gives us a level of absolute power we have never had. But absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is best to leave some things alone. Let mother nature take its course.

Source:
http://www.abcnews.go.com/Technology/SmallBiz/Story?id=6854658&page=2

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/02/04/eveningnews/techtalk/entry4776664.shtml

Week 6 Biotechnology by Michelle Wong

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

During lecture we saw how biotechnology connects industries, mathematics, computers and robotics, agriculture, food science, and medicine. One thing that really caught my attention was how artists used biotechnology to alter nature. Edward Steichen’s work was one of the most interesting one. It never came across me that someone would genetically mutate the genes of plants to give rise to certain characteristics for the purpose of their art. I agree that he intended to present his ideas through his work but is this any different from genetically mutating animals? Once mutated, it will be unfavorable in nature and causes negative effects on the plants health. I also found Natalie Jeremijenko’s thesis very interesting – planted trees genetically identical are subjected to different environment will nurture different trees. This strongly opposes the scientific belief that clones are identical, but it really depends on the environment. I found this concept to be interesting because it reminded me of the movie GATTAC. Can we really determine someone’s life because we “designed” them and just because we have the recipe of what they’re made of, can we anticipate its results? I would say no because for example if we’re baking a cake we can have expectations but we can’t guarantee the final results as it all depends on the temperature of the oven (environment).

This also brings us to the question of animal rights and should we be using animals in art and science. I think what Eduardo Kac did, the GFP Bunny, was unethical and derails the point of using animals as a source of experimentation. I feel that there is a difference between using animals for entertainment, by means methods of expression, and using animals for scientific values. For my experiments, I use triple-transgenic mice. They are mice in which three genes, amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin 1 (PS1), and tau, are mutated to produce and increase concentration of amyloid beta plaques. Because of biotechnology we are able to have mice that carry the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and thus allow us to advance in finding a cure of Alzheimer’s, a disease that affected 2.6 million people between the ages 45-65 in 2006 and is expected to quadruple by 2050. There have been previous debates regarding animal usage in laboratories and whether we have the rights to do so because animals are living things as well. I’m not saying humans have the right to do this because we put ourselves as the superior race, but because we live on a different life span cycle. It is much easier for mice to be impregnated and to give birth, not to mention mice gives multiple births. As for humans, the process of maturity takes a fairly long amount of time and the intelligence level between humans and other species differ. With biotechnology, we can genetically designed animal models to express the type of the diseases we want to study so we can have a real time model to carry out our hypothetical treatments and trials. But I have found those who genetically mutate animals or perform procedures on animals out of curiosity to be absurd and wrong because in science, the sacrificing of animals for valid experimental procedures is justifiable. However, “Animal rights organizations do not agree with supporters of biotechnology, who claim that this technology will reduce the number of animals used in tests because the new tests are more specific.”

LaFerla 3X-Tg mouse model

LaFerla 3X-Tg mouse model

http://www.natuurinformatie.nl/asp/page.asp?alias=meningen.eng&view=meningen&id=i000128

By: Michelle Wong

Week 6- Ethics in Biotechnology

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Genetics is one of the more recent scientific fields; biotechnology deals with genetic engineering, but has a much larger scope than that. Since genetics is so relatively new, it is a very popular topic in both science and everyday culture. I believe that scientific fields that are newer tend to be more controversial due to its uncertainty. With the ideas such as cloning animals and possible humans, people wonder if science is going too far. But I would also agree that most of the fears are due to a lack of knowledge on the field. There are countless government policies that slow the progress of scientific technological advances due to a misinformed fear. Although ethics is important, I wouldn’t agree that government politicians that have minimal understanding of a scientific field should have much say in what is right and what is wrong concerning the field. I think that should be decided by a scientific community. We tend to only hear about the negatives and bad news of scientific tragedies more so than the innovations and solutions. Of course biotechnology sometimes finds a solution that ends up causing worst problems as a result, for example DDT. That caused many unforeseen side-effects, a good intention gone wrong. Something that was meant to reduce pest and increase crop yield also result in poisoning of water and aquatic life, damaging the ozone layer, and thinning the eggs of certain birds resulting in the endangering of the majestic and symbolic bald eagle (for more on DDT, try visiting http://www.3dchem.com/molecules.asp?ID=90). It is heart-breaking when something that was meant to do good ends up creating worst problems, but that happens all the time in politics and economic policies as well. The best we can do is learn from it and try to prevent these things in the future, but we shouldn’t stop progress just because of a little unfortunate event. Foreseeing consequences are important, but that shouldn’t take our minds off the big picture of progressive science.

250px-ddt

The closest thing I’ve personally dealt with regarding ethics concerning animals is in Life Science 2 lab, we had to dissect a rat and observe and learn its anatomy. Although dissecting the rat and finding certain organs was difficult at times, I didn’t feel like I was doing anything ethnically wrong. Too me, it was a dead rat, maybe it had to be put to sleep before class started because the rat was still warm when we started dissecting it. I am sure the people at PETA would have boycotted the idea of using rats as specimens for learning about anatomy. This raises the question of whether humans with our great intelligence should be able to experiment on animals we perceive as lesser to us. Why is it reasonable to be able to dissect a rat, but completely wrong to do the same thing to monkeys. What is considered okay and considered wrong when dealing with animals in experiments. Who says what is right from wrong. I am guessing it is compromised between scientist and pro-animal activists in courts. Society for the most part is fine with freedom as long as it doesn’t harm other humans, but what makes it okay to captivate and experiment with animals for our benefits? I’ve read some article in English Composition 3 that argued that because we have higher intelligence, we are responsible for not treating animals inhumanely. It is part of nature that some animals are going to be inferior to others, that not all animals are created equal; some are going to be at the bottom of the food chain. To be clear, although kind of irrelevant, I am neutral when it comes to animal rights. These are just some questions that are floating in my head.

peta_toplogo

By Arthur To

Week 6: Artists, Be Wary! by Simon Wiscombe

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Let me preface this by saying that art should always remain a symbol of free expression and should never be censored. It remains in the hand of art to exhibit to the world overlooked viewpoints and dangers, as well as areas of hope and future change. That being said, here I go:

Art should not be guaranteed complete free range in the world of Biotechnology. I know this seems to contradict what I just mentioned earlier, but it does not. The second one starts to intermingle any form of biotechnology into a means of expression, one crosses the dangerous line into the highly regulated world of science, and rightfully so. Science, and specifically, Biotechnology, is a very caustic field. Laboratories exist for a reason. They are highly sanitized and highly monitored for a reason: to prevent unwanted contamination of the ecosystem.

There are many different cases of unwanted contamination spreading or escaping the lab environments that are meant to be safe (whenever there is a disease in a laboratory, there are officials being concerned, as was the case with SARS). There are also plenty of documented occurrences where foreign species have escaped into the wild and destroyed the local ecosystem, such as the cane toad infestation that is sweeping across Australia, killing local species by the armful:

This guy messed up Australia.

This guy messed up Australia.

As an example pertaining to class, let’s look at the fluorescent rabbit created by Eduardo Kac. There was an outcry when it was determined that he should be unable to keep the rabbit as a pet. I think this decision, however, was well justified. What would have happened should the rabbit have escaped and bred, and the fluorescent gene were to be passed on to rabbits throughout the country? An entire mid-west filled with glow in the dark bunnies? Despite the hilarity that would ensure, there would be dire consequences.

fluorescent bunnies in the wild: hilarious but devastating.

Fluorescent bunnies in the wild: hilarious but devastating.

In the end, I think Carol Gigliotti’s question to artists must stand, however I also feel like regulation should be enforced to the same extent that it is in science. After all, they’re all relating to the same material.

- Simon Wiscombe

Original image found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rajkumark/377240768/