Posts Tagged ‘genetics’

Week 6: Biotechnology, Genetics, Animals and Youtube? by Ryan Andre Magsino

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Week 6: Biotechnology, Genetics and Animals by Ryan Andre Magsino

As the professor mentioned throughout the week, biotechnology, the fusion of one of the most applied sciences with modern day mechanics, encompasses an extensive portion of scientific advancement. In the same sense, it too has flooded the art scene by encouraging attempts to critique biotech implications and outcomes. Genetics, one of the sub-divisions of biotechnology which in itself is overly expansive, ups the ante in its controversial precedence; for biotech artists have been creating and developing “new art” involving living beings and systems. In addition to critiquing the science, these artists are then subject to scrutiny by pushing the ethical boundary of using biotechnology to pursue this “new art” of theirs.

Oftentimes, both biotech scientists and artists use animals as their catalyst. For scientists, the use of animals is nothing new. Even dating back centuries earlier, scientists would utilize the classical genetic procedure of hybridization in order to breed similar animals to obtain distinct traits. Nowadays, scientists can go above and beyond by removing the aspect of “chance” held by classical genetics. Scientists today work on a molecular level. In doing so, they can pinpoint specific traits to be included or excluded in an animal. What more, it is now possibly to genetically restore extinct species like the Ibex (despite it only living for 7 seconds). However, if we were to perfect this process, the possibilities would be endless. Especially with the “First Draft” of the Neanderthal Genome recently unveiled, we could bring back our alleged ancestors back to life.

If we could bring them back, why should we?

If we could bring them back, why should we?

In the same regard, some biotech artist claim genetically engineered animals as their supposed “new art.” Probably the most infamous case, which was also brought up in class, is Eduardo Kac and his GFP bunny. By implanting the green fluorescent protein (GFP) into the bunny, he claimed the bunny as a piece of transgenic art, “art form based on the use of genetic engineering to transfer natural or synthetic genes to an organism”. From this new art form rose several ethical questions which are still debated today. However, rarely do we ascertain the possible applications of such an idea. Predicting a future society in which animals and their clones coexist, one standard for cloning would be to transfer the GFP into cloned animals in order to differentiate between the cloned and originals. Presuming such technology would be utilized on humans, we would easily be able to pinpoint renegade clones such as the case in Blade Runner.

Should we mark all genetically created organisms with GFP to differentiate between natural and unnatural?

Should we mark all genetically created organisms with GFP to differentiate between natural and unnatural creations?

It is a little known fact that I am one of the editors for UCLA’s Youtube Channel. It just so happens that I am currently in the process of editing and uploading the course “Honors Collegium 70A.” This course, taught by Professor Bob Goldberg, is a joint university (UCLA and UC Davis) that peers into the historical and scientific study of genetic engineering in medicine, agriculture, and law, including examination of social, ethical, and legal issues raised by new technology. One of the unique methods of learning through this course is its student interactivity. No one is simply told what to believe. Rather they pose questions, formulate hypothesis and derive the context of such scenarios. Although none of the lectures are up as of yet, they are due soon. Therefore, I encourage everyone to visit [http://www.youtube.com/uclacourses] and [http://www.youtube.com/ucla] to check out this upcoming course as well as other courses I and my fellow editors have posted thus far. (Also, it would definitely please my boss if you would also subscribe to our channel).

Note: I was wondering if would be possible to have the prompt for the coming week be up and available by Tuesdays. I realize it may be vexing upon the moderator, but I often end up frantically writing a somewhat sloppy blog entry the night it is due since I have prior engagements scheduled during the weekend when the blog prompts are posted. Also, it would be nice to be able to formulate and develop thoughts concerning the prompt while digesting the weekly topic.