Archive for the ‘week6_biotech’ Category

week 6 \ the promise (and peril?) of an emerging field \ ben marafino

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Far too often in today’s media, genetically modified (‘GM’) foods have found themselves lambasted, as well the pejorative references of ‘frankenfoods,’ a name which would make you think that GM foods, amongst other things, have apparently got the ability to rot you from the inside out. Most of us, whether unfounded or not, also have some kind of aversion to these GM foods – an aversion that may as well border on luddism. Apparently our collective hubris does not stop at the mention of frankenfoods, but it too extends, and in a quite regrettable fashion, to biotechnology as a whole. We too often downplay the future possibilities of biotechnology while taking it upon ourselves to magnify its real or imagined social costs. The complexity of judging new technologies and their inevitable impacts is a very inexact science – who would have guessed that the Internet would have became the sort of phenomenon that it did? However, the Internet has grown unfettered by the intrinsic external costs that might accompany the development of biotechnology – perhaps on the environment and on our health (the scientific jury is still out on GM foods).

As we have discussed in lectures, biotechnology – under the umbrella of which we can certainly include GM foods – carries with it much promise. Yet we usually find that what is promised is relatively quite vague, in that it is difficult to determine whether a given invention or advance (let’s leave it at that) is beneficial. In other disciplines, this sort of categorisation will be a bit more cut and dry: for example, it is trivial to assume that advances in these fields (choosing just which fields, of course, would make for entirely another debate in itself) will either be, on the most basic of levels, useful or otherwise. In the case that they prove to be useful, then they will be so only in a manner that provides some kind of objective benefit (such as with the Internet, which has relatively few externalities, most of which are negligible).  We cannot apply the same dictum to something as new and accordingly completely undefined as biotechnology, but there exists good reason to suspect the existence of noninsignificant externalities in its case, as discussed previously. Art may contribute – albeit from the outside in - to its definition, but there are cases in which art has negatively turned public opinion – and if I may say so, unfairly – against a legitimate invention and overblown its dangers (like nuclear power, for instance).

The same dilemma exists at the interface between art and biotechnology. We must be wary of bemoaning the usefulness or prematurely declaring the apparent ineffectuality of a breakthrough, no matter which form it may take. One would be inclined to think superficially the idea of glowing mice a bit frivolous, but the sorts of future technologies and techniques they will eventually lead to certainly are not.  Last year’s Nobel prize in chemistry was awarded for the very concept (green fluorescent protein; GFP) behind glowing mice, which only underscores (or our perception of?) its utility and importance. GM foods certainly deserve a thorough investigation of their possible dangers, especially involving gene transfer, but their use should not be dismissed out of turn. Rather, we should aim to hold accountable the increasingly faceless multinational corporations that press GM foods into use without knowledge of their dangers, or force them upon independent farmers – and of course, this is the perfect role for art and artists who deem themselves to be socially conscious.

Week 6/Biotechnology/ Tammy Le

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

With the ever progressing advancement of technology and research, it is of no suprise that biotechnology has taken such a prominent presence in todays world in not only science, but art.  The controversey behind modifying biological factors and challenging the laws of nature through human manipulation is completely understandable, and both sides have strong evidence for their case.  Those against biotechnology fear the consequences that may arise from modifying the natural order of biological matter.  To borrow a line from the Spiderman movie, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Now that we possess such great knowledge and skills, we have a newfound gift and power in which we must be cautious of how we use, especially since we are weary of the long term effects of many biotechnological processes.  On the contrary to those opposed to biotechnology, those for it argue in support of the benefits it brings to mankind.  It has allowed for developments such as the genetic modification of food that can help malnourished people, such as the golden rice that provides beta-cerotene for those who lack it their diet due to unavailability or resources, and has also opened a new pathway to medical developments that have helped save the lives of millions of people.  Regardless of your stance, however, it is difficult to deny that biotechnology has changed the world and will only continue to progress and advance into the future.

While researching for this week’s topic, I stumbled upon a information on the work of Hunter Cole, who has recently changed her name from Hunter O’ Reilly (to make it easier for those who may be interested in researching her), a geneticist and biotech artist.  She incorporates elements from her background in genetics with her craftsmanship in art in order to convey her support for biotechnology.  Many of her pieces aim to inform observers, or at least give them a glance, at how biotechnology effects the our lives.  One of her pieces that caught my attention, A Few Cells Create a Kidney and a New Life: Portrait of Shauna Anderson, encompasses her artistic work and message of the positive results of biotechnology by illustrating a personal story of a woman who’s life may be saved through stem cell research.

Shauna Anderson was born with normal kidney function, but progressively developed kidney problems since childhood.  Throughout her life she has had to endure an array of different biotechnological procedures that have kept her alive.  Despite her efforts, and the efforts of her doctors however, her attempts have fallen short and the next best option she has may cause her to rely on the development of cloned stem cells in order to help her lead a normal life. 

  Details, such as the bracelet of stretococci around her wrist pictured here, highlight the importance that biotechnological research has played in preserving her life and sends a powerful message of hope that lies within future biotech developments that have the potential to bring her back to a healthy life.  Cole also integrates images like a cross section of a lung and the Cytomegolovirus  to further project the powerful impact biotechnology has had on Shauna’s life.  Artists like Hunter Cole not only showcase how art and science can be harmonously combined to create a masterpiece, but also underscores how science can play a vital role in human lives.

Week6/Guppies/Connor Petty

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The guppy is a small fish that is the second most popular aquatic pet, the first being the goldfish. They are easy to breed and they their gestation cycle is about a month. But what is most fascinating about this are the wide phenotypical characteristics it can possess. Guppy breeders have spent over a century trying to uncover all of the colors, tail shapes, and body patterns that lie hidden in the guppy’s genetic code.

From the work of these breeders, the Guppy’s genetic code became one of the most well studied of any animal. As a result, several hundred strains of guppies have been created. The process of creating a strain is rather simple. Take a few guppies, mate them, and then mate the best looking of the children and repeat that process until every that is breed is indistinguishable from it’s parents.  I myself attempted this process. I say attempted because I didn’t have the supplies or the space to do it “correctly”. To do it correctly I would need at least 3 10 gallon tanks in order to properly separate the fry from from the adults and to separate the males from the females. Instead I just weeded out all of the fish I didn’t want to use for breeding in my only 10 gallon tank. Even though I didn’t breed the guppies with maximum efficiency, I still got results. I originally tried to create a strain that looked similar to this:Image:Rondel02a.jpg

but with a full tail instead. After 6 months of breeding I was actually able to obtain that strain. The strain was not pure, however, since the offspring were never consistent in appearance. Some of the guppies would have short tails, others would look like the the above picture, and others yet wouldn’t even have the striped pattern on their body. Guppy breeding definitely requires a lot of trial and error. My attempt to make a strain made me feel like an artist, picking and choosing what looks bests and what looks interesting in order to create something beautiful.

Guppy breeding could be considered old-school biotech art. It uses the process of science to create a work of art. While profession guppy breeders may not be using the latest bio-engineering technology to create their art, they are using one of the most basic of bio-engineering known as selective breeding. It is this form of bio-engineering that farmers have used for centuries to grow better and better produce that exceeds anything that would be found in the wild. Similarly, guppy breeders selective breed to create guppies with full and vibrant color that are far more colorful than could be found in the wild. An interesting fact is that female guppies actually prefer to mate with the most colorful males, but natural selection prevents this in the wild since such males would likely be eaten due to how well they would stand out. For most people, guppies will only be a pet fish, but to me they are a form of living art that. I hope that I will one day have the time to create an even better strain.


alas what used to be one of my favorite sources is no longer up do to lack of maintenance:

so, here’s the incomplete alternative:

Week 6 / Biotech / Erum Farooque

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Biotechnology is a controversial topic and combining it with art makes it even more controversial. Biotechnology is clearly a scientific field but creating new things and ideas is an art. Bringing them to life is where, I believe, the controversy starts. From the required reading, Leonardo Da Vinci is attributed to saying this quote:

‘‘I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men’’.
Altering animals in biotechnology may lead to their death and modify their lifestyle making it harder to live. These controversies with biotechnology see biotech to animals as animal cruelty, while another issue with it is of religion. Creating new life is like playing at God and his role. Religiously, biotechnology can be seen as wrong and also unappreciative with what God has already given us. Personally, I believe that biotech is wrong when creating new life or altering life for materialistic and superficial reasons, because of the religious reasoning behind that but I am still intrigued by it greatly. However, advancing medicine to save lives through biotechnology is good, you just have to stay ethical about it.    

The most interesting project/idea to me discussed in class was Alba, the GFB bunny. I found her so pretty and so cool. Adding “glow in the dark” genes to the white bunny is biotech and an inventive idea but calling it art and claiming the form of life as your own property is harder to agree with. While what the creator of the GFB bunny did was artistic and creative, it was dealing with biotechnology and a life, and I believe no one can claim a life. Another interesting biotech project involving altering the genes of an animal through injecting those of another animal into it that I found involves a monkey and a jellyfish.

They added a gene from a jellyfish into a monkey to see if primates could be successfully genetically altered, as a preface to testing on humans, if successful. Since the gene transfer was successful, they believe that any gene could be inserted without problems. The article says they will be used to research further into curing human diseases by inserting genes into embryos of humans. This raises ethical concerns over how the monkey’s life will be affected and if it will be able to be happy and normal, but the experiment was for the betterment of humanity. Creating new life out of old life is scientifically artistic. Artists aim for perfection, and that is what this does: perfect the species.  

Lastly, I would like to talk about my favorite show, Heroes, which was shown  in class. The show deals with people born with extraordinary abilities, which makes them very different from everyone else and they feel alienated until they find one another. This parallels the feeling of belonging that genetic engineering could alter, thus alienating the genetically altered one from the rest of his species. One of the main characters, Nathan Petrelli, refuses to acknowledge his power at all at first, wanted to be like everyone else and denies that he is has a special ability of flying. Later, he finds out that although his whole family was born with their abilities, he was missing any ability when he was born, so he was injected with a formula that gave him one. He feels betrayed and turns against his “own kind” of those with special abilities, joining with regular people in their destruction of all those of that different breed of special humans. This is a perfect example of what problems can arise from genetic engineering of people and animals and how it can affect their daily lives. Emotionally and physically, the genetically altered person, animal or plant is different from his own kind and ethical and moral concerns arise from this problem.

Here is a picture of Nathan Petrelli from the show flying for the first time. The emotion on his face conveys his disdain of his new-found special power. (The browser didnt let me upload the picture in to the blog. ) I also wanted to paste the video fo when Nathan finds out his powers were injected, but I could not find it. :(

By Erum Farooque

Week 6/Biotechnology & Two Cultures/Joseph Racca

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Biotechnology, at first glance during lecture, I was a little unfamiliar with the concept of it all.  But it seems that it has become popular in both its use in medicine as well as in agriculture.  Like many many concepts we’ve went over in class, biotechnology is a science and as we’ve went over in class an art as well.

Regular Ear of Corn

Biotech "Ear of Corn"

If we look at it from a scientific standpoint, scientists use biotechnology in research in applications such as agriculture, cloning, and such.  ”Two of the nation’s biggest crops, soybeans and corn, are subject to frequent genetic tinkering, often intended to help them fend off insects.”  Looking at the two photos above, we see a regular ear of corn, and in the second we see a genetically modified biotech “ear of corn.”  Metaphorically speaking, the biotech “ear of corn” isn’t an ear of corn at all, instead it is some mutated form of what once was a regular ear of corn.  Biotechnology is the art of making imperfect things, such as crops, into perfect crops.  Supporters of biotechnology support that modified crops taste better, look better, and are better for consumers.  But the question to ask is, how far can they go before they go to far?

In this YouTube video, biotech cotton in India is described, the benefits of biotechnology:

Transgenic Seed Technology

Genetically Modified Cotton Acreage has increased three-fold since 2002.  Biotechnology has provided “farmers the tools to save India’s most important export,” which is cotton.  In a caption on one of the pages it states “Biotechnology: Knowledge Serving Life”

Although some bioengineering may be ‘useful’ to some, this isn’t the case for everyone.  Many find biotechnology controversial.  And for some, artists in particular, they have taken advantage not only of biotechnology as a form of art but also as a means to gear their art toward the sole purpose of ridiculing biotech.

In these pictures is a gag product called Genpets.  ”Genpets (2005-06) presents a fake biotech company, Bio-Genica, which purports to sell genetically engineered pets in convenient clamshell packaging.”  In a way

Genpets Advertisement

Biotechnological Pets-in-a-Box

Biotechnology is certainly an avenue of research for both artists and scientists.  it relates back to what we covered in the beginning of the quarter about two cultures.  The two cultures, art an science, artists and scientists are finding ways to make biotechnology beneficial to their respective fields.  And for some, it’s both, and although this might be cliche, those who incorporate science and art are getting the best of both worlds.

From the reading (Leonardo’s choice: the ethics of artists working with genetic technologies by Carol Gigliotti):

“As artists take up the tools and materials of genetic and genomic research, their experimental reflections are changing our notions of artistic practice. Many artists function as researchers, engaged in non- hypothesis-driven, open-ended investigations. Their studios are laboratories for this experience-based inquiry.”

This poses the question, are artists capable of researching/doing research in the sciences to further their knowledge and techniques in the arts?  And obviously, it does allow artists to find new ways of creating “art” and the way they do so is through science.

Week 6/ Biotech ethics / Lam Tran

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

I am really concerned about the ethics behind biotechnology.

Some of the things freak me out. The best example of this is Steelarc’s third ear in his arm. WHY!!!! Seriously, I think most of the class will agree with me that implanting a third ear is just plain insane. What creeps me out more is that it is suppose to actually work. O.K., growing the flesh in a petri dish is relatively basic compared to the actual wiring into the nerves and recreating all the small parts ( such as the eardrum, hammer, Cochlea, etc ).

just look at how it looks, how all the tubes are arching about and such. Then again, perhaps it the ear Steelarc might be a simplified version of it and might not be able to hear as well as his normal ears.

However, at least he is subjecting himself to his experiments. If he was to screw up and the ear ends up tasting the air instead of hearing things, at least he is the one responsible for it. Any torture or hardships later in life that came from this biotechnological addon. But what about experiments to animals? I’m mainly going to refer to the GFP bunny that was referred to in the lectures and in one of the readings.

I am not a vegetarian. I have clothing made of leather. I use products that are animal tested. Using animals for pharmaceutical testing before humans is, in my opinion, O.K. These are all for utilitarian reasons. There is purpose behind these acts. We gain something tangible. If we test a shampoo on an animal and it gets a rash, that saves humans the pain of having a rash. If a drug accidentally causes vomiting on its test subjects, that saves humans from vomiting. In addition, these products that are derived from animals or have to do with other animals are products on the market that in turn provide jobs and manufacturing, marketing, and retail; they, all together, provide an integral part of the world economy. Although it is not nice to say it, most people think that a human life is more important than any other animals.  However, modifying an animal to “glow” just sucks for the animal. What if the gene modifications do not work right and the rabbit had a terrible skin disorder instead? What if the gene modification created extra limbs instead? And all these risks for what? Aesthetics purposes? There is no real functionality of having a bunch of GFP bunnies about unless the entire world will be enveloped in dark light and you have a bunch of these bunnies around to light up the world. Thankfully, this GFP Bunny was just a frontier. Hopefully, this sort of art does not become popular. Having genetically modified animals as art on display is worse than having a dead animal stuffed on display. Its a freak of nature. And the process of altering the Genes is probably very expensive. The demand for selling this sort of  “art” would probably be low because of the costs and that not very many scientists can do or want to do such a thing.

I’m not apart of PETA. Like I said before, I use products from or tested from animals. As long as the benefit exceeds the cost, that the animals sacrifice somehow improves the lives of others to a reasonable degree, I am perfectly fine with it.

We should just stick with traditional art. We only lose a few plants worth of paint pigment, a few minerals for the sculpture, or some electricity if its digital. Relatively harmless to other organisms ( key word is relatively, its only leaves a small carbon footprint).

Lam Tran

Week 6/ Biotechnology/ Andrew Curnow

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

The term biotechnology is one that on occasion gets overlooked when one contemplated the realm of sciences. This is at least true in my own experience. Though I had heard of the field of study, and even had a light familiarity with the broad topic, I had never truly touched upon its application in the real world. Encyclopedia Britannica defines the term biotechnology as: “the use of biology to solve problems and make useful products”, however even this definition is extremely broad. As I researched the topic myself, I reencountered various facets of biotechnology that we discussed in class, namely the use of genetic engineering in both plants and animals. As I dwelled over the articles, reading once again on the controversial topics such as genetically engineering the ‘perfect’ human, the material grew slightly irrelevant. I began to ponder over whether or not there was a facet of biotech that wasn’t constantly argued over. This answer came to me as I explored the use of biotechnology in a more ‘hands on’ approach. Though I had never even realized it Biotechnology is an important, if not crucial, resource in the field of criminology and forensics. Everyday biotechnology is utilized to solve large scale crimes such as murder. Though it’s depicted on television and movies, many people do not realize that DNA testing is considered biotechnology. Through nearly any leftover piece of tangible evidence, whether a fingerprint or a possible article of DNA evidence such as a piece of hair, experts are able to identify criminals with amazing success. Through a process known as Gel Electrophoresis, criminals are now confessing as guilty rather than innocent at an astounding rate. In the process DNA is broken down into smaller segments as it passes through a ‘gel’ matrix with a current passing through it, causing larger pieces with larger electric charge to sink further, thus allowing a comparison of the smaller pieces at the top. The process allows accurate visualization and matching of DNA strands, a piece of evidence used in crime scene investigation that cannot be argued against.

This truly intrigued me, I had always known of DNA evidence used in crime scene investigation however I never looked into it. This brought forth a series of realizations. Many of those that oppose biotechnology simply are ignorant to range of applications that the field. They believe the term simply refers to ‘making new species’ aimed somehow at destroying the natural world. However it is much different, through the use of biotechnology not only are fields of medicine vastly improving, both in new medicines and genetic alteration, but also issues of society, through criminal cases being solved more easily and frequently. It is difficult to describe the path of our future however it is undoubtedly directed by biotechnology.

Week 6 / DNA Origami / stephany howard

Monday, February 16th, 2009



Paul Rothemund makes DNA origami.  He describes that all life involves computation, and that molecular programs underlie biology.  When someone says that molecular programs underlie biology, they probably mean to say that all living forms have come into existence as a result of a biological, molecular program—computation—that has built its form from a sort of recipe.  Most of us understand that our bodies (and even behavioral traits in humans) have been laid out in a recipe of sorts by the genes we inherit from our parents.  In effect, a computational system that processes information in our nuclei give rise to our physical existence as humans—we are “computer fabricated artifacts”1.  The same goes for all other living organisms. 

Paul Rothemund is a Senior Research Associate at Caltech who has decided to use questions in computer science to better understand molecular and biological computing.  He says:

My interests lie at the interface of computer science, biology, and chemistry. By this I do not mean the application of computer science to solve problems in biology or chemistry such as the protein folding problem. Rather, I am interested in how processes in biology and chemistry can actually act as computers and execute molecular algorithms.2


He has noticed that both genetic and computer programs are sensitive to very small mutations or changes in code—an attribute that makes both kinds of computation extremely powerful.  Rothemund also believes that in order to understand any system, one needs to build it from the bottom up.

In his talk at the 2008 Ted conference, he outlines how he created something called DNA Origami in his attempt to understand the way that DNA builds structures—ultimately hoping to enable humans to coopt biological programs in order to build biological computers.  Where synthetic biologists (like Craig Ventor) use cells to build new things, Rothemund and his colleagues take interest in using biomolecules (DNA, RNA, and protein) to build “new languages for building things from the bottom up.”  The first thing that Rothemund has figured out how to do build is shapes and patterns out of DNA:





Each smiley face is 1 thousandth the width of a human hair.  The images were built by a relatively simple process (described in Rothemund’s 5 min Ted talk).  Once someone designs a shape or pattern they would like to build out of DNA, a computer program or compiler writes in DNA code the recipe for the molecules needed to make that synthetic form.  These recipes describe the small molecules that when added to the long strand of DNA (like the origami paper), will fold that strand into a desired shape (an origami object).   



Once this recipe is written, it is sent out (via email) to a company that uses a DNA synthesizer creates small bits of DNA (staples), in the form of a seed.  When appropriately watered, this seed essentially grows into the object / pattern desired.  During this process, the small bits of DNA (staples) attach to a long strand of DNA (found in the M13 virus), and fold that long strand into a desired shape or pattern (eg. smiley face).


The idea is that eventually we’d be able to build things like cell phones:




And Rothemund describes, “It turns out that nano-artwork is just what you need to make nano-circuits.”  And they’ve been able to make a single functioning switch out of DNA.  A functional computer needs half a billion switches, but they’re on their way to building a functioning biological computer with parts 1/10th the size of a normal computer.  We can only imagine the ramifications of having computers this small. 


stephany howard

2 Rothemund’s bio, website:


Reinterpreting Biotechnology_Jillian Cross

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Reinterpreting Biotechnology: Digital Art

While doing research for this week’s blog, I came across one artist in particular who instantly gained my attention. Hunter O’Reilly (now Hunter Cole) was originally trained as a geneticist and now uses her knowledge of both genetics and of art to reach out and deliver a message to the masses through digital artwork. What I find so fascinating about Cole is that she is originally a scientist who decided to use art as a gateway to educate others. She “reinterprets biotechnology through digital art.” While she is very excited about her discoveries in the lab, she also works on an emotional level to bring specific biotech issues to the public.

The quote about her artwork that grabbed me was that it is “visually beautiful, but intellectually frightening.” This is a fascinating statement when you think about it. Many people see one side or the other (the beauty or the fear) and I think it takes a rare person to see both. The beautiful and frightening oxymoron seems to follow many people in their daily lives without them realizing it. For example, a person may be appreciating the hot sun on a clear day. Beautiful, clear skies are all around them on this hot day in January and they are appreciating the beauty that is nature.

On the other hand, however, one could view this abnormal heat in January as incredibly frightening. It could be further evidence of global warming, the melting of icebergs and the changes in our climate that will be devastating to the human population. Beauty and fear can go hand in hand and Cole definitely captures that in many of her pieces.

We talked about the issues behind cloning in lecture this past week. Cole also addresses some of these issues in her art. In “A Clone is not a Copy,” Cole shows that although the DNA of a cloned cat is the same as that of its “mother’s”, the actual appearance of the cat is different. Part of her work is to show that clones are not exact copies of the original, but that they are unique individuals with different appearances and even different personalities. Cole believes that the environment and timing of a clone’s “birth” affects the personality of that clone more so than the DNA. This is a fascinating work of art because it does show the physical differences in the clone while also showing the identical DNA. It helps the viewers understand the ideas and ethics behind cloning on another level.

A Clone is Not a Copy:

Much of her artwork incorporates beauty and science as well as a stance on a popular issue regarding biotechnology. For example, Cole designed a piece entitled “Anthrax Clock” in which she illustrates the effects of anthrax on a human being through images. By creating the work in a clock form, Cole is bringing attention to a more pressing issue: time. Behind the clock lies the implication that a bioterrorism attack can happen at virtually any time. And once the attack does happen, will there be enough time to save everyone?

Anthrax clock:

This type of artwork serves not only to educate people on the effects of anthrax, but also to allow people to stop and think about the concept of time and bioterrorism. By incorporating actual images of the anthrax bacteria into her piece, Cole further cements the bond between science and art. The images she uses can help people understand more of the biology behind something. She employs the technique of using art and science in her genetics classes. She has her students do pretty standard experiments, but then has them turn those experiments into art as well. She feels that the art can help her students learn more than the basic experiment teaches.

                Cole states that she thinks that “People see science as inherently more important.” However, she thinks art does have a more important place and is trying to combine them both to help educate the public as well as giving art that more predominant place in society.

                In Cole’s work, “A Few Cells Create a Kidney and a New Life: Portrait of Shauna Anderson,” one can see that she works diligently as both a scientist and an artist. Each detail in the piece incorporates some part of Shauna’s story and serves to educate viewers on the importance of stem cell research and reproduction. 

This article describes the specifics details within the artwork:

A Few Cells Create a Kidney and a New Life:

                Since Cole is a scientist, an artist and an activist (she uses her works to bring attention to certain issues), people tend to criticize and question her ethical values. What amazes me is that she believes so strongly in everything she is doing, she handles all of the negative responses and continues to get her point across in the most effective manner she can think of. I believe that she in an excellent example of a combination of art and biotechnology.



Other Interesting Hunter Cole Links:

Interview with Cole:

One of Cole’s exhibits:

Week 6 / Designer Babies by Marie De Austria

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Designer Babies

As we learn more and more about ourselves, we delve deeper and deeper into the roots of life – DNA and genetics. At first the idea of chromosomes and protein transcription and translation are novel and exciting but human as we are, we always have an eye for progress. Humans have tampered into almost everything they can – politics, religion, ecosystems, solar systems, even the universe. Now they are looking not further into the horizon but deeper into themselves. They are now looking into the possibility of tampering with the genes of unborn babies to create “designer babies.” Furthermore, we already have working sperm banks, in-vitro technology, as well as a completed Human Genome map which would make the idea of designer babies a step closer to reality.

Scientists have been trying to perfect the “art” of inserting desired genes into embryos of animals since it is strictly illegal to do so in humans. The first incident of a bioengineered animal occurred when scientists successfully determined a growth hormone gene and inserted it into a mouse embryo. As expected, the mouse grew to twice its normal size. Now for non-scientific people, this incident is not very exciting. So a mouse grew to twice its normal size – big deal. But there lies the foundation of an even bigger idea – what if we can also engineer human genes, to take out undesirable genes and insert coveted ones?

Ever since the first baby conceived through cytoplasmic transfer was born in 1997, people have been wondering about the possibility of engineering babies to manifest desired traits. It turns out that Cohen, the man who discovered cytoplasmic transferring of fertile eggs to help infertile women have children, “endowed” the eggs with mutant mitochondrial DNA. Some of these babies were found to have diseases and problems linked to having incompatible genetic strands. But the health of the baby was not the concern in this case. The concern was that Cohen successfully engineered a human life and in many people’s eyes, especially those who hold conservative views, he essentially played God.

The idea of creating the “perfect baby” is indeed a very exciting prospect. Imagine if we can choose our child to have a certain eye color, hair color, skin color, height, and personality. Or better yet, imagine if we have certain genes that we don’t want to be passed on, say, a disease or a stunted height, and we want our child to have say, Tom Cruise’s blue eyes; imagine if we can engineer those genes into our child’s embryo. Imagine if we can choose our children’s genes, how will our future change?

Couple abandoning designer baby

But before we can look into the bright possibilities, we first have to deal with ethical problems that surround the idea of playing God. Since we are still on the verges of perfecting this technology, accidents and mistakes are more than likely to happen. The question is, who is going to take responsibility for the lives of children who were created with the wrong genes or who grow up not to have the traits that the parents paid for? The parents or the company who engineered the baby? Also, what about the whole idea of tampering with Natural selection? Would humans be subjecting themselves to a darker future by going against, or assisting, Mother Nature?

Personally, I think the idea of bioengineering is great for creating more nutritious and ecologically-beneficial things such as the “golden rice.” But for what it’s worth, I would just have to say that engineering human babies, or even animals for that matter, is too much, too arrogant, and too destructive for humans to consider doing. First of all, knowing how your baby is going to turn out takes away the excitement and surprise of having one. Yes there are benefits to ridding the future generation of genetic diseases and to the possibility of a genetic perfection.  However, I don’t think the benefits of creating the “perfect baby” outweighs the consequences of tampering with natural selection and human life.

Week 6: Manufacturing the next generation By Claudia Zapien

Monday, February 16th, 2009

I hate to be your typical conservative person but it seems like biotechnology is human’s way of playing god or creator. Biotechnology had greatly advanced the medical, agricultural and food science fields, but to what expense?

The human genome project was the beginning of the idea of human enhancement from a molecular perspective. Having a blue print of the human genes so that we can identify problematic genes sounds like a great idea; an idea that can potentially eradicate many diseases that would cause paint and suffering to many. The question at hand is do we have the right to change the course of life for the upcoming generation? Only because we have the technology to do such a thing is it correct for human to manipulate the life of a child who isn’t even born and make him so that they are free from certain illnesses that are due to genetic predisposition.

The term Gene Therapy is the practice of inserting genes into a patient’s cell and replacing preexisting alleles (gene variants) to perform some type of therapeutic function. It’s mainly used to replace mutant defective genes such as those that cause cancer with normal alleles to solve the problem that are cause by these genes. If this type of process could be used with reproductive cells, they cell would never carry this defective gene and the genetic make up of the new child would be forever altered and so would be altered the genes their offspring. This type of procedure is not being used in human at the moment, but it is known as germ line genetic engineering. It is something that is still being formulated and tested because it has not being successful thus far.

The procedure still hasn’t been tested on human or large mammals, but it is something that scientist are greatly pushing forward for. The problem with germ line genetic engineering is that fact that human traits do not only depends on one particular trait but a few and it is very dangerous to alter the genetic make up of a human being without being aware of the possible repercussion associated with this. Not only that, but genes control a variety of traits and by eliminating a gene that would potentially develop into a disease one might also eliminate a gene which would have had a useful trait.

The most significant reason why people oppose to this type of procedure is moral, but there are also other factors that attribute to the objection of this technological advancement. First of all of this procedure was to work the population would dramatically increase due to less death cause by diseases. There is also no way of knowing what type of side effect are cause by this thype of procedure since this practice has only been used on small animals. We could have a generation unbalanced human and we wouldn’t be able to know this until the child has turn a certain age where we can evaluate their emotional, cognitive, and social behaviors. It is cruel to subject human to this type of risk.

It seems like the more advanced we get the more we want to mold the next generation of people into a perfect model. No a days we can pretty much assimilate to society’s idea of perfection with plastic surgery very easily. It seems that people follow beauty and healthy trends, but along the years the trends change. How would we be able to change someone’s genetic make up permanently without it having negative repercussions? Who would be one who decides what traits are favorable and which are not. Is this the beginning of manufacturing the next generation?

As human we are unique because we are the ones that control our life and what will come out of it. We live life and the twist and turns that we encounter during our journey will shape us into the human being we are today. The greatest part of being human is the fact that we are free, we are free to decide who we are and what we want to become. We are free to choose, but what kind of choice will we have when certain decisions are already made for us before we are born.

The major reason why this research is being pushed forward is to help those who are predisposed to develop life threatening diseases, and if you look at it that way what’s the harm? People will live longer healthier lives, but is that really where it will end? Once we can manipulate genes in the early stages such as pre-conception, what will stop us from creating what society thinks of as the “perfect” generation.×6txAO9c

-Claudia Zapien

Nathan Reynolds, Week 6, The Controversy Behind Biotechnology

Monday, February 16th, 2009

The use of biotechnology, regardless of intent, is something that can prove questionable and, at times, unethical.  There are also always proponents and opponents of any measure of any application of such technology.  This has been the case for every subject in the spectrum, ranging from the use of “organically grown” food to utilizing stem cells.  Despite the conflict, both sides fight for rather noble causes.  This makes the ethos and pathos behind such disputes harder to break.

My own opinions concerning genetic and cybernetic enhancements have yet to be firmly established.  I have convictions, both personal and religious, which contribute to my reasons and my confusion.  I believe that human life is precious and should be preserved, but does that mean that we should preserve the unborn for the sake of their purposes or utilize them to preserve the lives of their fellow men?  These questions intrigue me, since both sides are considerably important.

I do take more of a definitive stand on things such as organically grown vs. “non-organic.”  I believe that if you can make a species used for food more efficient, then that process is worthy of research.  The more efficient a creature is, the result is that less are required to reach the same end.  This means that fewer creatures must die, fewer must live under “questionable” conditions, and fewer resources must be used to raise them.

Despite my lack of a firm opinion on certain things, I have two driving reasons behind my reasoning: opportunity and purpose.  If an unborn child possesses the opportunity to live, it should not be denied that.  By denying the life of such a child, you destroy its purpose, or manipulate it for your own ends.  Who has the right, or perfection to make such a judgment on a fellow human?

Week 6\Golden Rice\Marian Portugal

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Biotechnology was an idea that I was never familiar with.  After learning about it and the crazy creations that can come from it, however, my interest for this subject has begun to develop.  I researched online to learn more about biotechnology and came across a website that gave several examples that resulted from biotechnology.  One of them, called “golden rice,” caught my attention. 

            Golden rice, unlike regular white rice or brown rice, is genetically modified to be rich in beta carotene.  Beta carotene is an organic compound often found in plants and fruits such as carrots, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and green leaf lettuce, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe.  It is important to the human body because it is a precursor for vitamin A.  Vitamin A is extremely important for the human body because it plays a role in several functions such as helping to maintain vision, gene transcription, immune function, embryonic development and reproduction, bone metabolism, haematopoiesis, (formation of blood cellular components), skin health, reducing the risk of heart disease, and antioxidant activity.  I was particularly intrigued by golden rice because it has the potential to make a change in our world that can effect our human population in a positive direction, as opposed to mice with human ears on their backs or glowing rabbits.  Golden rice improves the health of anyone who consumes it, because the beta carotene inside of it helps prevent several diseases and disabilities.  Not only does golden rice affect our health, it also serves as an economic relief for those consuming it.  This is because they will not have to spend any more money on vitamin A dietary supplements, because it is already in their rice.

            The part about golden rice that makes me like this example of biotechnology over all others is that it has a purpose.  Unlike other biotechnological creations, like the mice with human ears and the glowing rabbit, the creators of golden rice wanted to find a way to improve our world’s overall health.  Also, it has the ability to affect everyone—it does not exclude itself to people of a specific gender, race, or ethnicity.

            Although this is going off topic, I began to wonder why the creators of golden rice decided to name it “golden rice.”  One obvious reason would be because of the color it adopts from the beta carotene inside of it, but then I thought if the word “golden” contained any connotations that would make it more appealing to the public.  To me, I associate “golden” with words like “exceptional,” “prosperous,” and “bountiful.”  Like the Golden Ratio, golden rice is then meant to be seen as “perfect.”  Only time, however, will tell if it really is perfect in its power to change our lives.

Week 6-Gaia Theory-Gindy Nagabayashi

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

The world as we know it will cease in about 100 years according to self-proclaimed Planet “doctor” James Lovelock, the man behind the Gaia Theory. The Gaia Theory, named after the Greek goddess of Earth, indicates that the earth is a superorganism. According to Lovelock, humans have made irreparable damage to the earth. The global climate change is heading toward a deadly pace. Lovelock offers a bleak vision for the human race, but does offer some solutions including the use pipelines across the ocean to cure the earth.

Too Little, Too Late?

Lovelock’s insight into the future of earth is a wake up call that people need to start listening to. This week’s topic of Biotechnology conflicts with the Gaia Theory. Biotechnology is largely based on the bettering of man-kind. In that bettering, we sacrifice the earth. Many of the technologies mentioned in class dealt with the cellular level of life. Lovelock criticizes that life scientists and earth scientists are split along the lines of thinking. Lovelock offers a resolve which views the earth as physiological system. At the rate that we continue to dump waste and release chemicals into the atmosphere will lead mankind to its extinction.

We have started to listen to the earth’s cries and have responded to messages of going green. However, I do not think that enough people understand the depth of the problem. I found out a while ago that water bottles are one of the most wasteful products on the market. Millions of plastic bottles end up in waste sites; plastic takes millions of years to degrade. When I relayed this knowledge to my friends, some of them told me that it’s okay because they recycle. My point was that buying water bottles are just bad for the earth because it takes resources to make the bottles, to deliver the bottles to stores, and so on. They still did not see they shouldn’t buy water bottles. Although people are recycling more, I do not believe that the idea of sustainability is getting across to many people.

The problem is that we do not see ourselves as a part of the earth, rather we inhabit the earth. I think that is what has led us to this point, where our planet is severely damaged and unable to recover. We are only right now trying to change this mentality. With optimism and innovative technology, the earth might stand a chance.

week 6

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

As it sounds, biotechnology is technology based on biology, especially when used in agriculture, food science and medicine. Because biotechnology deals with living cells and stuff, it is often used in genetic engeneering. The way I look at it is that it is a powerful scientific tool for innovations. For example, this Insulin Cristals picture.  We know that Insulin plays has a big role in the metabolic and several other body systems as far as relieving glucose from the blood etc. Medically speaking, it is a very important hormone. Biotechnology can jump into this whole insulin thing in searching, for insatnce, about differents ways to either increase the quantity of Insulin in the human body or think about ways to engender a new hormone that will perform a similar job as Insulin.

  Another aspect of  biotechnolgy would be genetics. When the first human beings realized that they could plant their own crops and breed their own animals, they learned to use biotechnology. The discovery that fruit juices fermented into wine, or that milk could be converted into cheese or yogurt, or that beer could be made by fermenting solutions of malt and hops began the study of biotechnology. When the first bakers found that they could make a soft, spongy bread rather than a firm, thin cracker, they were acting as fledgling biotechnologists. The first animal breeders, realizing that different physical traits could be either magnified or lost by mating appropriate pairs of animals, engaged in the manipulations of  biotechnology. In this process, I think the difficult piece is being able to predict the exact traits of the species that will evolve as mating occurs. Just like the peocess of creating  sort of like new species from mating of different animals remained unknown untill the 90s, the process of predicting the exact traits or whether the traits could be either magnified ,or lost during mating, will also be known by scientists as time goes by. Scientifically speaking, I believe that doing this whole mating process on and on will enable scientists to have a better explanations regarding animals that lived centuries ago, namely Dinausors.

The last aspect of biotechnology that I am going to try to elaborate on is agricultue, which refers to the production of food and goods through farming and forestry. Agriculture was the key development that led to the rise of civilization, with the husbandry of domesticated animals. This is one of the reasons why I believe it should be given a careful look . Applying biotechnology in agriculture, we will have to focus on the differents ways in which to create food surpluses that will enable the development of a more densely populated and stratified societies.  Even though the fact that most of the American food is somehow man created , as I call it, at least it is a way to respond to the big economic concept of scarcity. Being able to produce products enough to feed every body in fast-growing countries such as the United States is one of the fact that people should be so grateful to the government structure for. Additionally, we should all give thank’s to the biotechnology companies for making it possible.

By Fabrice Keto

Week 6/ Biotechnology’s Gifts/ Yu Hsiao

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

This week we discussed about biotechnology and its influences. It’s known that, as technology advances, we could control more aspects of our lives.  Such as using the technology of weather forecasting, we can plan ahead, and therefore, control what we do with our lives instead of just waiting for the unknown and the unexpected.  With the advance of biotechnology we see we could have more control over our health. Patients with amputated legs could now have mechanical legs, and go on to run and lead a normal life. A lot of this was thought to be impossible. I found a cool website of slides, that contained the Heinleinian predictions that include neuro-mechanical prosthetics(mechanical leg),transgenic and mind downloading.
Two of the three that I picked to talk about came true. It is scary to think that those predictions were made long ago, and thought impossible. It won’t be long before the third one came true.   Along those technological advances come controversies, and questions of ethical issues.  The technology of transgenic and neuro-mechanical prosthetics also raises the question of whether or not we’re playing God. In some people’s point of view, we might be taking too much control of things in this world. Neuro-mechanical scientist can be viewed as Frankenstein, mad scientist that uses body parts or fixed body parts to recreate a being that resembles a living thing. However, this advance in technology also helps with people who are victims of amputation. It helps them regain mobility and return to “normalcy”. It goes the same with technology involving genetics, like transgenic. I think there is nothing we can do about the ethical issues surrounding advances in biotechnology. I personally think that the benefits that unfortunate individuals such as amputees could receive outweigh the ethical issues in people using this advance in something else, such as using prosthetics as a medium to express art. There are many people who could now participate in regular activities, even athletic activities, with the advances in prosthetics.
“When I received my first prosthesis at the age of 11, it was made of wood and metal. At that time, I never dreamed that a leg could be made that would allow me to hike, snowboard, dive, rock climb, mountain bike, and keep up with my six-year-old son.”-Cliff Cabral, age 39 (belowkneeamputeecom). 
This man experienced the advance of this particular field, prosthetics, in biotechnology that allowed him to lead a life that is a lot better than he had hoped.

Referenced from

Hunter O’Reilly is an artist and also a geneticist. Though she does not use genetics directly in her art work, she uses her paintings and exhibitions to explore the issues surrounding genetics and biotechnology.
In this paintings, different cloned embryos of different sizes. Though they’re clones of each other, the painting suggests that “each [have] identical DNA yet still having unique characteristics determined by their environment.” She used art to explore and express an idea could be studied when this genetic technology is made possible. This is an interesting idea, because if we had this technology we could study the idea or environment and nurture vs. inherent characteristics. We could put numerous clones under different environment and unique conditions, and we could see how identical clones with the exact same genetic material would react and grow under different conditions. We could answer questions such as if the nurturing factor really affects an individual. The fascinating thing about this concept is that it is conceived by an artist, and scientist who work with genetics. This idea is conceived through means of an art form, rather than a proposal-like science research paper. This is a cool phenomenon showing that art and science, once again, can be interconnected and expressed through each other. The two could also communicate with each other, since Hunter O’Reilly is both an artist and a scientist, she certainly is able to express her ideas with both science and art, and like above, and she used art as her medium to express a novel idea of science.

Another novel idea that I learned from the Hunter O’Reilly video was transgenic E. coli bacteria that glows. I’ve actually worked on making these transgenic bacteria as a volunteer in the Tech Museum in San Jose. By inserting Jelly Fish genes into the E. coli bacteria, bacteria are able to produce proteins that glow, just like the glowing bacteria in Hunter O’Reilly’s video. O’Reilly suggested that these glowing bacteria could be used as a medium in art to make new art works. This again is biotechnology in art at work. Artist could be genetic scientist who works to alter the genetics of certain living things that contribute to their art work. Many possibilities could come out of this, such as engineering bacteria to glow in different colors, with different luminescent qualities and etc.

Personally, I believe that advance in biotechnology is an amazing branch of engineering that influence our society. I believe that though individuals might use biotechnology to questionable and bizarre use, the benefits that biotechnology justifies itself. With advances in biotech we could use tools, such as clone individuals to study how clones react to different environments, and see how much of a factor environment is to the growing process of an individual. The advance also allows individuals such as amputees to live a normal life with prosthetics. In the future, better prosthetics might evolve, and actual limbs could be made and operate just like the real thing. Lastly, with the advance in biotech brings a new form of art, where the artist could genetically redesign and modify his/her medium of art to suit his/her art piece.  

Week 6/ Steve Kurtz and Bioterrorism/ Ariel Alter

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

I was shocked at the neurotic swiftness that it took for swarms of men in hazmat suits to invade the artist and college professor Steve Kurtz’s house in Buffalo, New York after the discovery of what superficially appeared to be petri dishes fermenting “bio-terroristic” organisms. I was also troubled by the immediate equation of the appearance of a science experiment in a suburban home with the popular Bush buzzword- terrorism. The immediacy with which the FBI deemed Kurtz a “terrorist” without fully evaluating the items of scientific inquiry in his house demonstrated the pathological tendency of the Bush state to scrutinize anyone who even remotely resembled orchestrating terrorist activities or disagreed with the administration, and the inability to fathom that an artist would harness biotech research as a medium for critiquing the institutional status quo of biotechnology. The FBI tore apart his house and confiscated materials they deemed suspicious, including the body of his dead wife.
Instead of using traditional mediums such as paint and a canvas for social critique, Kurtz conducts science experiments and research at the biotechnology level. His activist art group, the Critical Art Ensemble, literally seeks to understand the science that goes into the stuff that they are critiquing. The level of research being conducted by the CAE usually occurs on much larger scales in institutions or large corporations in the hope for profit. The research found in Kurtz’s apartment was a project meant to incite debate about the safety and morality of genetic research. The FBI was suspicious of Kurtz and the CAE’s politics, because it uses “bleeding edge” art to critique values and practices of the dominant (heavily funded) institutions of society.
The CAE’s project The Marching Plague was meant to critique the copious and unnecessary amounts of time, money, resources and energy devoted to research regarding bioterrorism. Steve Kurtz and the CAE unleashed harmless bacteria meant to be a stand-in for anthrax. Participants stood outside a tower in Germany (the CAE’s description claims that “because Germany is not a hysterical reactionary state,” unlike the U.S., “the use of public buildings by the public is still possible.”) and were tested for bacteria. Only a couple of participants were tested positive for mild amounts of the bacteria. A procession of men in hazmat suits arrived at the scene to demonstrate a “hysterical reactionary state.”
On their website, the Critical Art Ensemble accompanies each description of an artwork with a manifesto that informs the artwork. Here is the conclusion of the manifesto that accompanies The Marching Plague:

“We believe that biowarfare “preparedness” is a euphemism for biowartech development and the militarization of the public sphere. Preparedness, as it now stands, is a madness that continues because it gets votes for politicians, audiences for media venues, profits for corporations, and funds for militarized knowledge production. If there is any real threat to our bodies and health, it is not coming from weaponized germs, but from the institutions that benefit from this weaponization.”
Just recently, Bruce Edward Ivins, a biodefense researcher for the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, was traced back to the anthrax attacks in 2001. Ivins is confirmed to have sent out the anthrax envelopes to promote his research for the cure of an anthrax infection. The “real threat… is from the institutions that benefit from this weaponization.” The real threat may be something inside ourselves, very close to home, not in the house of the artist who works independently from a large profit-driven institution.
For someone whose artwork is devoted to critiquing the state’s hysteria over his supposed threat of bioterrorism, this incident was a nightmare for Kurtz. Kurtz and another professor were convicted not of bioterrorism but mail and wire fraud, for transferring non-hazardous materials through the mail, a crime just recently instated under the U.S. Patriot Act. Kurtz’s story is representative of the modern state’s attempts to curtail free speech in preservation of state that uses fear as a form of social control and pacification. As Kurtz tearily recounted the words of his late wife at the end of the Strange Culture trailor, “Hope would never forgive us… she always said never surrender, never give up.”

Week 6/ Ethics Considered/ Kelly Tseng

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

This week’s discussion about biotechnology was especially intriguing to me since I find that it is a very controversial topic in our society today. Whether it violates many of the ethical rights of humanity or facilitates the everyday lives of people due to its beneficial repercussions, biotechnology is undoubtedly a technology that has and will continue to benefit human existence on earth. I find the science behind biotechnology nothing short of amazing. The way scientists can fully clone human organs so that they can replace damaged or failing organs is such an amazing innovation that can possibly end all human strife. One particularly interesting project that Professor Vesna mentioned in class was “Dolly the Sheep.” Dolly was the first mammal to have been successfully cloned from an adult cell. The reason why Dolly was so significant was because of the fact that before her creation, there was no proof that any differentiated animal cell could give rise to entirely new organisms. Inspired by the creative inventions of biotechnology, I went on to search appealing projects on the web and something that I remember learning about in a Life Sciences class last quarter. The Human Genome Project, which was initially headed by the double-helix co-founder—James Watson, himself, it has mapped most of the genes of the human species. Although knowing predicting future diseases a particular individual might have may have beneficial implications, I along with many others, believe that it may only end up hurting individuals and taking away from their quest on this planet—to live. For example, if one knows what disease he/she will have when she is 45 and if there have not been any cures found for that disease, then wouldn’t that information only constantly worry the individual and take from the individual’s purpose for living. Thus, although many biotechnological innovations have seemed favorable and advantageous for our society, we must take the time to second all of their pros and cons before we decide to accept their use into our society and lives.

Week6/ Biotechnology/ James Martin

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

This week’s lecture was based all around biotechnology and its role in the scientific and artistic fields. When I think of biotechnology, I do not usually think of art, but rather the scientific side of it. The genetically modified food portion of the lecture really spoke to me and made me want to further my knowledge in this area. The video that showed how the McDonalds French fries did not deteriorate was pretty disturbing. Food usually goes bad and the video was very alarming. After doing some research, I have learned that McDonalds uses genetically modified foods especially for their French fries. This is what allowed for the fries to last so long after sitting in the jar. Another interesting video that was created by the same person was the movie “Supersize Me.” In this movie, Morgan Spurlock only eats McDonalds for thirty days and sees the affects of it on his body and health. He gained a lot of weight and his health deteriorated very rapidly. Of course this was a bit of an exaggeration because he only ate McDonalds for an entire month but he did prove how unhealthy McDonalds was. The genetically modified food that they are serving is not good for the body and creates a lot of health issues. After seeing “Supersize Me” a couple of years ago, I have not eaten at a McDonalds and the video that professor Vesna showed us during lecture will only make me stay away from McDonalds even more.

Overall I think that there are both positives and negatives to genetically modified foods. Some of the advantages from these modified foods are nutrition and the prevention of diseases. Some foods are being engineered to obtain more nutrients that are suitable and needed by the human body. If we could create foods that are better for us then we would be able to consume less and create more food for everyone. Also, with the genetic engineering of some foods, some diseases are being prevented. Some plants and foods would be able to resist certain diseases and create healthier possibilities for humans. There are also some negatives to genetically modified food. Some modified foods are harming other organisms and slowly destroying species. Some species may end up becoming endangered if they keep becoming destroyed. There are worries that the foods being created will allow for insects to become resistant to certain pesticides. If they become resistance to these pesticides then our plants can slowly become extinct. There are many pros and cons to genetically modifying foods but I will let you make your own choice on the subject.

Another portion of lecture that was interesting to me was cloning. There is much controversy over cloning and as far as I can tell, it seems that more people are against it than are for it. Much of the controversy was created when “Dolly” was created in 1997. It was the first mammal (a sheep) ever successfully cloned. Much of the controversy that arose from Dolly was that fact that she only lived about half as long as a normal sheep. This brought up the question of whether or not it was ethnically acceptable to try and clone humans. There are many who are against it and there are also many for it. Personally, I do not see the need to clone humans. Sure the technology is there, but I just do not see the point in trying to create many of the same person. It takes away identity and that is what makes each person unique and there own self.

Biotechnology has the potential to be very helpful and useful for mankind but there is also the possibility of it going wrong. I am all for biotechnology as long as it helps mankind in a positive way with little risk of it going bad and harming.

-James Martin

Week 6: Biotechnological Art/Jasmine Huynh

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

I really liked this week’s lectures because it was so interesting to learn about how biotechnology can be turned into art. Professor Vesna mentioned and showed many examples of “biotech projects” that were made into art. I particularly remember the DNA Expressions website that she showed us. I liked it because this art is created through a process that I normally complete in the research lab that I volunteer in. This process is called gel electrophoresis, and is normally used to see what type of genes an organism has. The different bands represent the different base pairs of the DNA, and they tell you how many of those base pairs are present.  I am very familiar with seeing the pictures of these bands in the lab, but I was very surprised to find out that people actually wanted to buy these bands as art! It was very rewarding, and surprising, to see that the two distinct cultures, which we so often mention, have found some common ground. This is a great example of how science can be art.

I found another artwork project called “Tissue Culture & Art Project.” This is the link for their website:

This is a project headed by three main individuals: Oron Catts, Ionat Zurr and Guy Ben-Ary. These team is from Western Australia. I think the most interesting aspect of this team’s work is the fact that they all stem from a biology, not art or design, background. They are yet another example of how the two cultures, art and science, need not be thought of entirely distinct entities. All three of these individuals previously worked in the biological field and have found a way to fuse the two passions of their lives. They make their art using a combination of tissue culture and tissue engineering. Tissue culture is the process by which you grow living tissue in an artificially-created niche for the tissue, outside of its regular bodily habitat. Tissue engineering is the process by which tissues are modified to either enhance or change their functions.

One of their projects that I particularly enjoyed was the Artificial Womb project. More information about the project can be found here:

This project aimed to create an artificial womb that simulates a growing fetus inside an actual mother’s body. They also created a “time-based doll” which emerges based on a particular date. They also have another related project which is called the “spunky dolls.” (Found on the same page as the artificial womb) These dolls are made out of tissue (living tissue) and they have an online component as well. The public can click on links on the website to “share their worries with the dolls” or “view other people’s worries.” I like these dolls because it allows the public to interact with the artists’ work.