Archive for the ‘Week6_Biotech’ Category

Week 6_Wenjing Wu_“Unnatural”

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The first two books on the suggested reading list of this week and the discussion on Charles Darwin in our section reminded me of my Genetics classes. A year ago, our Genetics professor encouraged everyone in the class to give presentation on interesting biological subjects by which we might get extra credits. My topic was “Gaia”.  “What is life?”  and  “Gaia” were my major reference books. The main idea of Gaia Hypothesis is proposing that the whole Earth itself, including both organic and inorganic components, is considered to be a complex intact system which is capable of maintaining its own balance for living creatures. Though controversies still exist, I do believe in this theory. And I also believe what we human being have done is seriously jeopardizing the balance. Overexploitation of fossil fuels and forrests, enormous emission of greenhouse gas and wastes, endless boundry for land and water wastes and pollution, they went beyond Gaia’s self-clean competence, let alone the devastation done by unnecessary wars. Every step made to achieve industrial progress had taken its toll on our mother planet, due to human being’s nearsightness and irresponsibleness. Obviously we are taking more than needed and leaving more than wanted. I use the word “unnatural” to describe this trait. In any “unnatural” process we might easily get countereffects. Farm-grown mushrooms, for example, are not as nutritional as those grow in the wild. In the discussion we had last Tuesday, a question was poped out of how we should treat the extincting species. The view that human beings should try their best to save endangered  creatures was largely agreed on. However, I still think not all endangered species are worth saving. Because that not all changes result from human activities.

 1,1500 trackable objects in Low Earth Orbit (LOE) around “Gaia” from the North Pole. In low orbit, debris can stay adrift for decades before they eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere.  (by AFP/Getty Images)

1,1500 trackable objects in Low Earth Orbit (LOE) around “Gaia” from the North Pole. In low orbit, debris can stay adrift for decades before they eventually burn up in Earth's atmosphere. (by AFP/Getty Images)

 

 

I remember another topic on that Genetics class presentation was “Chamerism”, which referred to the phenomenon that one individual having “more than one genetically-distinct population of cells that originated from more than one zygote”. In other words, part of a chimera’s body, be it a set of proteins or blood cells, is genetically identical to another individual. Actually chimerism is not at all rare. One can even say every body is a chimera, since the genetical-level exchanging of information happens right in the beginning of conception. Transgenetic technology, from this prospective, could be considered as artificially creating chimeras unachievable by natural process. I think this could be call “unnatural”, too. I’m not optimistic about any genetically-modified or transgentic products. For instance, a latest article on New York Times talked out new-emerged problem caused by In Vitro Fertilization.

Then again, back to the notion of Gaia, I pondered from time to time: Is human technology part of Gaia, too? Is She smart enough to have a certain population in human beings, say like environmentalists, be aware of the “inconvenient truth” and act on changing it?

Josh Bohbot- sec B: A jewish view on organ donations.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

In the Jewish religion we are taught that every life is worth fighting for and if there is way to save it we should do everything in our power. In contrast there is another idea which is that a person is obligated to avoid dangerous situations in order to protect your own life. If donation of an organ has a very high risk of endangering the donors life, would this mean that organ donation is prohibited? It would seem obvious to most people to do what is necessary, even to donate their organs, to save another life, but where does Judaism come in. In some sense it seem that is should prohibited but on the other hand, where is our sense of obligation to other people if they are in grave need. It would seem that is should be permissible according to the laws of  Judaism.

Jewish law permits organ donation if it will be of immediate use, but prohibits to give organs to banks, which would sit until someone might need it. In my opinion, allowing an organ to be donated, while you are still alive, to a an organ bank, in a way, is hoping that someone might get sick or injured causing them to need the organ. This would be in violation of the law of  desecration of a body. Once can see this as someones selfishness to feel good about giving away a part of your body. In Judaism the concept of pikuach nefesh, saving someones life,  is always strongly emphasised in a Jewish education, and because of this concept is the reason why organ donation is even allowed (with certain parameters). Organ donation falls into this category.

Week 6 Biotech by Adriana Rosas

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

 

This week’s lecture topic was very interesting. I never realized the amount of influence that biotechnology on Hollywood movies. I suppose the reason would be that biotechnology is constantly evolving so there is a lot of room for imagining new and “out of this world” technology. During discussion, we talked a little bit about how in Star Wars Episode V: the Emperor Strikes Back Luke Skywalker loses his arm while battling the evil Darth Vader. In the end of the 1980 movie, however, his arm is replaced by a robotic one allowing his to once again have two functioning limbs. I’m sure that people during the time of this movie were in awe of this surgery as the concept of a robotic prosthetic arm did not exist. Through this, I found it rather interesting how the concept of a prosthetic arm has evolved with the help of developing technology.

starwars5dvd

The whole idea of “fake body parts” started during the time of the ancient Egyptians. Archeologists found artificial toes on mummies, however, it is not known if these toes were used during the mummy’s life. During the 15th and 16th centuries the concept of prosthetics that we know today were discovered. These prosthetic limbs also started off as being produced by metal and then evolved to be made from wood, which is a much lighter option. It was not until the 19th century that artificial limbs where popularly used as the amount of wars increased. Prosthetics continued to improve due to the  increase in government funds and the discovery of anesthetics.

bionic_woman1

Prosthetic limbs have come a long way since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Robotic limbs have been discovered and are now able to be controlled by the amputee’s mind. This latest breakthrough is a robotic prosthetic limb that is operated by one’s thoughts from the brain that are sent to a computer by a set of electrodes. Scientists hope that this discovery will lead to the development of mind controlling artificial limbs or wheelchairs for people with total paralysis such as people with motor neurone disease or spinal injuries.

Ethics of Biotech by Brandon Aust

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Biotechnology is an interesting topic in the fact that human technology has come so far that we are in a way “playing god.” The fact that we can argue over the ethics of bringing an extinct animal back to life is indeed very intriguing. I personally believe that if an animal is extinct, it must be so do to a certain reason—mainly this belief is a reflection of Darwinism. However, a lot of animals have become extinct due to human interaction, so I can see where an argument may come up. Also, bringing back animals that are extinct may help our further understanding of science and the world, so then again this argument makes sense if it will help the human race out in the long run. Because going back to the Darwinist point of view, is it wrong for the human race to use all its available tools in order to make it stronger and more knowledgeable for survival? This is a question that is very prevalent in biotechnology. The question of ethics is very important in technologies involving stem cell research. In order to use such technologies, humans must destroy human embryos, which brings about the ethical argument of when life actually begins—the questions that arise through abortion as well. It’s hard to come up with a true answer to these questions, not only because there are people on the two extreme viewpoints, but because there’s a certain desire to protect the lives of the young, but to also protect our own lives and learn more through the technologies the stem cells have to offer. It seems as though these technologies will not be fully tested upon unless scientists develop a way of collecting stem cells they can use without destroying a human embryo.

dodo

One area in which biotechnology seems to make the most sense to me is in the application of biotechnology in agriculture. With this, it would be a lot easier to grow food, especially in areas that aren’t able to grow food at the moment. The food could be changed in order to grow in different climates so that areas that have poor food production could now have a convenient source of food. With agriculture in these third world areas, a more developed society would thus grow as well. So it seems that this would greatly aid many problems in the world. I’m not suggesting that this would fully end world hunger, but it would greatly help. It would also make the production of food in industrious countries cheaper and more efficient. Yet these technologies are not fully used to their best abilities since some people are scared to eat such foods. It goes back to a previous blog in which I stated that humans fear the unknown. These foods are unknown to a large group of human beings, so until they are proven to be safe, they cannot be fully utilized. Theirs is also a large growth in the desire for purely organic food, which harms this type of industry from fully developing.

apple

I think the largest thing that holds biotechnology back from fully developing is the scare of how powerful the human race can become.  By this I mean that these technologies; as stated before, makes the human race “god like.” For example, if we can create medicines that will increase our average life expectancy by say 50 years or even more, is this natural? Is this even a good thing? These types of questions are what our society is facing. As Uncle Ben said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” It is up to the entire human race to decide what is a responsible way to use the tools that we have created and what we are capable of creating.

-Brandon Aust

How Can Something so Beautiful be so Bad? Nicole Carnarius

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Of course its only natural to be a little apprehensive about genetically modified organisms. No one really knows what the draw backs are yet. It is logical to assume that humanity will bring on its own destruction if we keep things going the way they’re going. So what’s going to be the innovation that does us in? Genetically modified organisms are an interesting candidate. Certainly not as imposing as industrial waste or global warming. If we follow what could be called the “M. Night Shamala” theory, we will be done in by what we least expect. Now you might be thinking, well genetically modified organisms are well known, how could they possibly be what we least expect? If you look at many of the anti-genetically modified organism articles, their whole purpose is illuminating this problem, gmos, that has been secretly infiltrating our grocery stores and our bodies. I’m sorry to inform nay-sayers, that they- like most naysayers- are too late. GMOs, like stem cells and gay marriage, are here to stay, and most people still don’t care. WHY? BECAUSE GMOS ROCK!

happy-rose2

The color of this flower’s petals are actually changed through chemical substances placed in its water but in no time at all this is going to be one of the more simply things that genetically modified organisms will be able to do for us.

What will it be like when everything we use is genetically engineered? Will it be a paradise or a hell of our own design? Honestly it could go either way and its not like we are unhappy without genetically engineered organisms. We’re just a little more bored and have to work a little bit harder. 

Pass the flavr savr tomato.

week 6 biotechnology by matt kramer

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

This week’s focus on the controversial topic of biotechnology was very interesting and complex.  The debate over its ethical standing has become more and more prevalent as technology continues to develop.  Biotechnology has implications in many areas including in vitro fertilization, cloning and genetically modified foods as well as many others.  In discussing and thinking about the ethics behind biotechnology and its advantages and disadvantages, I found it very hard to form a concrete opinion on the subject.  I believe that in cases where biotechnology can help save lives and help to better understand the complexities behind genetics and disease, like stem cell research, it should be encouraged. 

 

On the issue of cloning, while I think it is somewhat unnecessary, it still does not seem bothersome or unethical.  Human cloning is definitely something to be more seriously considered because it is something unnatural that would affect all people.  Things that are leading active lives like humans and animals have more of a direct impact on society and to clone them is considered by many to be unethical.  It is even argued that cloning alters the destiny and natural course of evolution.  But then so would all technological advancements be considered anti-evolution, when in fact they are the cause of human intellect and discovery evolving.  Cloning humans and animals is a very controversial subject that needs more than a week long focus or a couple hundred word blog to be more completely explored. 

 

Another big part of biotechnology is genetically modified food.  Food that can be altered to be more healthy and beneficial to its eaters is definitely a positive aspect of biotechnology.  Cross-breeding plants so as to make it better for its consumers is something that should be allowed.  This is most definitely ethical and beneficial in my opinion because it can help all people from all walks of life.  With the global economy in serious trouble, and food shortages occurring all over the world, genetically modified food can be one helpful solution.  Still, scientists continue to point out that genetically modifying food can have unforeseen negative consequences on the environment and ecosystem. Just as it took a bit of time for people to realize the dangers of smoking and the possibility of global warming, it will take time before we can identify and predict all of its effects on the environment.

           

Nonetheless, with global food shortages being a real threat to humanity, genetically modifying food presents itself as a possible savior for billions of people.  It should be heavily researched so that it can be utilized in the safest and best possible manner. 

 

The topic of biotechnology this week was fascinating.  I wish we had more time to discuss it because it is certainly going to be very relative in the near future.  I think its ethical standing should continue to be subject to debate because it is something fairly new and controversial for many good reasons.    

-Matt Kramer

Week 6: Biotech by Matthew Robertson

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

    It seems to me that as science advances and the technology exists to create a wider range of objects, that eventually we will be able to create “synthetic” living organisms that are identical to natural ones. Personally, I do not believe in a soul or any sort of existence other than what is physically in the body; the body of a living thing is nothing except for an arrangement of molecules that behaves how it does due to chemical reactions. It seems to me then, that arguments on what can and cant be done with genetically engineered things are merely specifying arrangements of molecules that are sacred and untouchable. I think this is a bad way to approach science and the future.

    That being said, I think that most of the art we saw in lecture this week was very disturbing and hard to look at. I had a hard time sitting through the lecture as I did not like looking at what was being displayed on the screen. I can understand that the ethics of this field are potentially very involved and complicated, however, they are ethics that I find exploring and arguing over to be something that I don’t want to do. I do not want to think about the animal that was killed to test the medicine that is saving my life, in the same sense that I do not want to think about a chicken that has spent its entire life in captivity to give me a meal. While the fate of the animals is very sad, its not something that I want to consider or have revealed to me. Accepting very strict rules on how animals are treated, becoming vegetarian, etc, raises too many difficult questions about the nature of existence and what it means to be alive.
    One particular problem is that many of the animals that are being killed or mistreated would not exist if not for the element of society that mistreats them. Is it better to have a horrible life than to not exist at all? At what point would the animal prefer life? Can a system of points (or a score) model how just an animals life is? Is it fair to decide this? If you object to an animal feeling pain, what if it is given a sedative or is bred to like pain and want to die? 
By
Matthew Robertson

Biotech & Art: Transgenic by Nikola Kondov

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

CONTENT REMOVED

week6, biotechnology, wei-han ouyang

Monday, February 16th, 2009

This week’s lecture reminded me of a class that I took in high school. The class is simply called biotechnology. In that class we learned about all the procedure that researchers use to examine the test subjects. But most importantly we learned about data recording. At the same time, I learned a lot about DNA through the class. I think DNA is a very interesting concept of living organisms. Even though scientist decoded the genetic code, each human have different unique personalities. A move call i-robot point out the importance of “soul” in a human body. In the movie, the setting is in the future when robots are common technology like ipod today. A new robot was built and strangely it has feelings and dreams. What is so important here is the significance of artificial intelligence. A.I. will be created one day and us humans will have to be prepared for it. But on the other hand, what the movie discussed about “soul”, is not yet scientifically proved. Yes, each person has a different personality. But, what if the thing that makes us different from each other, our souls, does exist. What if our souls are not imprinted on our genetic code? What if it comes to the question of life after death? If we do have souls, after we die, will our souls go somewhere else? These are all interesting questions even though it does not concern biotechnology. And even if we have souls, will our technology advance to the step that robots will be able to have their own way of thinking?

Relate to the blog that I wrote a few weeks ago about natural selection, at the same time that our technology is advancing, nature is also evolving in different paths. There is a tree in UCLA botanical garden that has a slightly oiled skin that when there is a fire it just burns out and go into a sudden comma until the fire is over. My friends and me were discussing about natural selection the other day again and we were just amazed of how nature works. Us humans are developing the technology in a way that entertain us by developing all these high definition LCD screens and comfortable using the nature’s resources. And on the other side of our planet, our nature is evolving for their own survival. What if nothing is happening to the world right now? Will that tree that has oiled skin ever evolve to what it is now? If a prehistoric shark still exist on the planet, that means that our ocean is really not that effected enough that it still manage to survive. It’s really interesting to acknowledge that this kind of creature still exist in our planet. It is a surprising discovery, and also a sad fact that all the other animals that lived in that period of time died because of our industrial pollution. On the other hand, if we can use all these techniques that animals use to survive in our biotechnology, and be able to understand it, will we be able to create a better world?

prehistory shark

biotechnology by joseph hernandez

Monday, February 16th, 2009


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Human’s can create art and manipulate science to do many wonderful things. They can also control the two and put them together to create something that the world has never seen. For example, a mouse with what resembles a human ear on its back.

Is this art? Is this science?

mouse-with-ear

At what point does creativity and artistic vision turn into an appalling misuse of knowledge? When does the brilliance of an artist turn into a scientific atrocity? I can’t really tell the difference because I can see both sides of the story. The ability to make a creation like a rat with an ear on it seems fantastical and to actually bring a vision like that into fruition would be absolutely exhilarating. However, what right does any human have to manipulate the nature of another creature? Would the human race not have a major issue if some foreign species tried putting tentacles on our backs? Would we let this happen to ourselves; and if not, why would we do it to other creatures? And even if we were to play both sides of the game, where do we draw the line? What is okay for the sake of science and art but when have we taken it too far?  <!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:”Cambria Math”; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:1; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-format:other; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:0 0 0 0 0 0;} @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:swiss; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1610611985 1073750139 0 0 159 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:”"; margin-top:0in; margin-right:0in; margin-bottom:10.0pt; margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoPapDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; margin-bottom:10.0pt; line-height:115%;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>
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I think in this case where you are physically manipulating an animal to see if you can alter its appearance is one step too far. If it for instance was able to mystically cure cancer because of its new appendage than that would be a different story. However, I think that scientists and artists need to evaluate the benefits to society of their creations before potentially harming anyone or anything.