Week 6 Biotech

After Professor Vesna’s lecture on biotechnology this past week, I have begun to realize the extent to which biotechnology affects our lives.  As it combines disciplines from all across the spectrum – genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, embryology, cell biology and robotics and more – biotechnology has the potential to do just about anything.   With the newfound ability to genetically modify the DNA of a species or even “improve” upon certain aspects of a species, humans can alter biological organisms to better suit their needs; To an extent, it is as if humans now are playing the role of God.

 

While this could lead to much great advancement in medicine, agriculture and such, it also brings to light a whole new level of dangers that we will have to worry about.  Most of these dangers involve – and will probably always involve – bio-ethics, like whether animals and living beings should be used as experiments for scientists or “canvases” for artists or whether humans should explore the frontier of human cloning.  At this point, technology has become so advanced that the question for us is no longer about whether we can do it but rather, should we do it?  Is it immoral for scientists to use animals for experimentation?  And moreover, should artists, like French artist and scientist Eduardo Kac who injected a green fluorescent protein into the fertilized egg of an albino rabbit and called it ‘art’, be able to use animals as a canvas for their pieces?  Personally, I understand the benefits that come from animal testing, but for art, I don’t think so.  However, the fine line between experimentation and exploitation in this case differs from person to person.

 

Biotechnology also paves the way for more extreme possibilities.  Naturally, genetic changes have so far occurred only on a small scale and over a relatively large amount of time.  With today’s advancements in medicine and science, however scientists have been able to change that; they can now go as far as to successfully “reprogram” one cell into a different type of cell and engineer a replacement for certain tissues in the human body - and Juan Enriquez, chairman and CEO of the research and investment firm, Biotechonomy, says there is no reason why these procedures involving cell transformation and tissue generation can’t be applied on a greater scale, like human-design.  He suggests that these advancements could lead to a greater possibility, where humans themselves will eventually be able to take control of their own evolution and design a more genetically-advanced species of humans, which Enriquez christens as Homo Evolutis.   Read about it at: http://www.abcnews.go.com/Technology/AheadoftheCurve/Story?id=6854658&page=2

 

It is probably safe to say that biotechnology is a field that holds a lot of promise.   I sincerely hope that we will use our new-found capabilities with responsibility. 

Michie Cao

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