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Revision as of 05:28, 27 October 2010

Journal

Day 1

After a very long time I had again opened my mind to biology. The last time I had studied biology was in the 10th grade and for the first half hour of the class everything pretty much went over my head. It had been a long time since I had heard these words and they actually sounded like Greek to me. But slowly everything I had learned in the past came back to me.

In the first class we discussed about general information regarding the first theories of evolution and how they were replaced by others as we come to this day. WE also talked about DNA and its purpose.


Day 2

Today we talked about Mendel’s laws of segregation and independence. A very important point is that you don’t need to be a scientist or have a PhD. to discover things. We got to know how genes are passed down from one generation to another. Also alleles are outputs of genes (allele=pea being round or wrinkled.) The terminology used may take some time to get used to. It is amazing to actually see a cell splitting into 2. We then talked about chromosomes and how they decide the characteristics of a person.

If Genome=book,

Then DNA=volume,

And Chromosome=library

We also saw a video that talked about where gen. engineering would be about 30 yrs. from now. another important thing to consider is the ethics of the topic. Is creating new species good or bad for the world? Is it really progress or just an illusion of progress that we are blindly following that will lead us to our end???...


Day 3

Today we started off with seeing how gene mutation is not a good thing. For eg. Cigarette smoking causes the gene p53 to permanently mutate thus causing lung cancer.we then talked about the basic requirements for being genetic material, which are as follows

1 information storage-Dna has 4 proteins that can be arranged in any way creating different codes

2 accurate replication-there is a chance of 1 ni a million that the gene is defective, and if it’s so it gets disposed.

3 it must be expressed as a phenotype- A phenotype is any observable characteristic or trait of an organism: such as its morphology, development, biochemical or physiological properties, or behavior

4 it should be able to change –i.e. every individual has different characteristics therefore DNA is different

DNA is like a symbol for bio like an atom for chem. DNA stands for dioxyribose nucleic acid. It consists of a sugar phosphate backbone and ATGC base pairs. The base pairs are what create code of the DNA for creating proteins. (Sugar=dioxy ribose, base pairs=nucleic acid)

A=adenine

T=thymine

G=guanine

C=cytosine

The proportion of A & T is always equal. Similarly G=C. DNA replication is called semi conservative replication. In this process the DNA is split into its 2 separate helical structures (unzipped )and each of the single helix join to the respective base pair. Thus forming 2 similar DNA 2ble helixes. All somatic cells (non sex cells) have the same amount DNA specific organism. On the other hand sex cells (e.g. sperm) there is only half the total amount of DNA. The other half is in the sex cells of the mate. Thus the child gets 1 half each of the parents’ genes. Also genetic engineering is not creation of genes but just modifying the original genes to create a different protein.


Day 4

Today we talked about proteins. Proteins are polymers of amino acids. There are 20 types of amino acids, 8 of which cannot be produced by man. Thus they need to be consumed.the shape of he protein is very sensitive to the environment.(eg. An egg on heating becomes solid.

There are 2 types of proteins based on their function:

-Structural proteins ( hair, muscle collagen, etc.)

-Enzymes

enzymes are surfaces for reactions to occur. They act as catylists for reactions in the body. Enzyme names usually end with the letters “ase” eg .polymerase. proteins are also present in the nucleus.thus the DNA contains the gene and the proteins in the nucleus are the phenotype.


Day 5

As we talked yesterday gene= DNA and the protein= phenotype(expression). Today we talked about the process of protein creation using DNA. In the nucleus one of the helix of the DNA gets replicated to form RNA(RNA=1/2DNA).RNA is the set of instructions for producing protein. The RNA travels outside the nucleus and goes to the ribosome. The ribosome is like the factory for producing proteins. There are free proteins in the cell in pairs of 3 called codons that act as input for the ribosome. The protein pair is selected according to the code in the RNA(ATC produces a certain protein.) There are 20 types of proteins and only 4 codes in the RNA. Thus the RNA is in pairs of 3 to create enough no of codes for the 20 proteins.

In DNA only 1 of the 2 helix is used for production, however it is a double helix for easy replication. When DNA is replicated, each of the daughter DNA has 1 of the helix of the parent DNA. Also the other helix decides where in the body the protein is used.


Day 6

Today we talked about the genome and genome sequencing. The first type of genome sequencing was hierarchal sequencing where there are certain landmarks in the genome which are used for genome sequencing. The other method is called shotgun sequencing. longer sequences get subdivided into smaller fragments, and subsequently reassembled to give the overall sequence.98% of the RNA produced does not even leave the nucleus. The walls of the nucleus act as as a purifier.they are like a simple on off switch. we also talked about bacteria that have a self defence against


Day 7

We talked about recombinant DNA. Recombinant DNA is DNA that is artificially created from two or more sources and is incorporated into a single recombinant molecule. Recombinant DNA (rDNA) is a form of DNA that does not exist naturally, but is created by combining DNA sequences that would not normally occur together.

Most of the bacteria have a restriction enzyme which cuts up foreign DNA. Therefore it is sometimes difficult to splice DNA. This process of splicing can create new types of organisms. This is what synthetic biology is based on. Usually a bacteria called E.coli is used for this as it is not dangerous to experiment on. Synthetic bio. Has many applications. It is used to study particular sequences that are very tiny(the sequence is put in the bacteria and amplified), to express phenotypes, to increase the quantities of proteins , etc.


Day 8

Isolating genes was always done from the phenotype to theto the DNA, but that changed while trying to cure muscular dystrophy. The doctor tried to sequence the gene from the dNA to the phenotype. This is called reverse genetics. He found that a small gene on the x chromosome was missing. This gene was responsible for production of distrophin which connects the muscle fiber to the cells. Distrophin can be replaced by urotrophin , which can be produced by a drug. Thus the problem was cured. In the nucleus mRNA of about 14,600 base pairs is formed, most of which ars not required. the introns remove about 79 peaces from the mRNA by gene splicing in the nucleus itself.

The DNA library is a volume of the genome. Hybrid DNA is a combination of 2 DNA from 2 different places. The geme and a vecter is combined and introduced into the bacteria. the bacteria takes the new gene and adds it to the original gene. The bacteria is allowed to grow and half the DNA of the new bactrria is introduced so that the full(double helix) DNA is fished out. Thus hybrid DNA is created.


Day 9

Today we talked about transgenetics which is DNA of more than 1 species. The the method used is called gene splicing which was first done by Boyle. While working with fruit flies he found that a certain gene called the homiobox genes were responsible for descision of what grows where. Thus by changing this gene he could change the position of different body parts. Thus started synthetic biology which was literally engeneering biology.


Day 10

Today we talked about creating a hypothetical bacteriaof our own. We also given a talk on hybrids and new creatures. The concept of hybrids has existed since many ages. The available technology and advancements in biology has made it possible to create such hybrids. Radical plastic surgens do exactly this. They add extra parts to the body through surgery.


Day 11

Today we saw a video of craig venter on ted talks. He was talking about his recent discoveries in biotechnology and how they went about doing it. We also talked about different bioartists and their approach to biology


Day 12

Today we went to NCBS for the first time.we had gone to meet the person who would help us create the new bacteria and understand how to go about doing it.


Day 13

Today we saw the different parts that make a functioning gene. it was shocking to see its resemblance to electronic parts and circuits. we also found out about the parts regestry and how to search it. The pats registry is a large collection of already existing dna. We also talked about bioremediation which is creation of an organism that solves environmental problems. Plants are better at bioremediation as they can be plantrd and removed easily thus not disturbing the ecology of an area . We also learnt about PCR (polymerase chain reaction) which was discovered by Kary Mullis. In DNA the base pairs are held together by an H bond. This bond is brokrn at 80 degrees celcious. The polymerase is used to duplicate the DNA and produce 2 strands of DNA. hut at 80 degrees celcious te polymerase coagulatees. thus we introduce an extremophile (organism that survives in extreme climates) that is genetically engeneered to produce polymerase. thus making it a chain reaction.


Day 14

Today we talked about gene scilencing. In this process some of the genes get turned off. This happens at the transcription level. Scilencing occurs when 2 strands of mRNA are created that are complementary to each other. Thus they recombine and are not allowed to leave the nucleus. Thus the protein is not created.

We also researched on different bioartists that use biological phinominons as a form of art.today we looked at George gessart, Adam Zeretsky , Eduardo Katz, Petrissia Piccinini and so on. It is amazing to see how biologyitself was a form of art. And each bioart work had a deeper understanding to it.


Day 15

I had an appointment with an eye doctor so I couldn’t go for class. But today was the day we got our wiki pages created. In the evening I asked for my password and got it the same day so I didn’t lose out on a lot. They were also told about the 2 foreign faculty that was coming to aid us: Daisy and James.


Day 16

Today we didn’t d much. We saw a BBC docmentry : Secrets of Life,The race for the Double Helix. It talked aabout the three groups of scientists involved in finding the double helix structure of DNA and their contributions to the finding. Seeing this documentary made me realize that discovery is like a rat race of who finds what first and who should be credited for it. Also from the previous example of Kary Mullis and the 2 scientiststhst discovered the structure of the double helix, that one doesn’t need to be the smartest to discover something, he just needs to have some knowledge of the subject and a lot of luck.


Day 17

Today we saw the different parts that make a functioning gene and their uses. It was shocking to see its resemblance to electronic parts and circuits. we also found out about the parts regestry and how to search it. The pats registry is a large collection of already existing dna. We also researched about how to create yeast cultures. We found the following:


Preparation or Agar:

-Heat 7 gm of agar in 250 ml of water till it completely desolves.

-Let it set.


Preparing yeast culture:

-Heat yeast in water to activate it.

-sterilize loop.

-dip in yeast and streak to the agar.

-keep it aside to grow (24hrs).

This process failed as we added very little agar (1 gm). Thus the yeast didn’t grow.


Day 18

Today we read our first scientific paper on repricilator gene. The gene works as a cycle. There are 3 main proteins that activate 3 different genes, which are produced by those 3 genes. 1 repressor affects the 2nd and the 2nd affects the 3rd. the 3rd in turn affects the first, Thus forming a feedback loop. The Bacteria works as an oscillator circuit using the time for triggering as the time between the action. The terms used in the paper were very confusing and did not make sense at first but slowly came to my understanding. My conclusion is that scientific papers are complicated ways of saying something simple.

We also tried to grow yeast again his time we tried 3 different concentrations of agar:

1.4gm/250ml

4.3gm/250ml

10gm/250ml

thee middle concentration was best suited for yeast growth.


Day 19

Today we went for a discussion of: Evolution as opposed to design. The speaker talked about the design problem in evolution and whether the design was meant to be or just a coincidence. He gave the example of the eye and the telescope and said that if the telescope had a maker then so did the eye. The only difference is that we know who made the telescope. We also talked about natural and artificial. This raised a big question in my head that if man would interfere in anyway then it would become artificial. Then that would make everything artificial as man has interacted with and changed almost everything. Then that means nothing natural exists….


Day 20-24

We spent the next 4 days making our own lab equipment. We made 2 centrifuges, a microscope and an incubator using locally available materials. It took several trials and errors but we finally made all 3. I was working on the incubator and it was a little frustrating to get the perfect temperature.


Day 25

Today we worked on collecting all the info of the last 3 weeks. This is what we came up with:

-We started off by creating bio-art sculptures that used, living organisms. We were told to create art without killing the organism, thus trying to integrate the two (art and biology) together and also having a kind of pet for the summer!

-Coming from an art background, we tried to add meaning to why we did what we did.

-After this we came up with ideas for bacteria and an explanation for how they functioned.

-We created imaginary machines that CAN NOT exist. The idea was to open our minds to the extreme possibilities so as to get new ideas: for our final project.

-As we went through all the previous works of Igem competitions we realised that almost all the projects fell under 3 major categories, which were:


1. Purifiers

2. Display/sensors/ indicators

3. Production of energy

We believed that it would be good to create an organism that would not fall in any of these categories.

These are all the possibilities that we have come up with till now, hoping to have a excellent outcome.


Day 26,27

absent


Day 28

I was absent the last 2 days so I was a little lost. But with help I caught up quite fast. Today was also the day I met James and Daisy. Today’s assignment was to come up with an organism for iGEA(genetically engineered art) which was a new compition we started in srishti. We came up with E. cloudy.


Day 29

Today we presented our bacteria for iGEA. We were also given conics to read and pich out intresting myths which could be related to synth. biology. All the ones we selscted fell under tese catagories: Bio prospecting

Karma

Ecosystems

Immunization against a disaster

Soma

Jugad (being very prominent)


Day 30, 31 Using the myths we read through we were told to a create a bacteria that retells the story. We depicted the story of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.(The holy trinity)


Day 32

Today we looked at the myths that had been created by synthetic biology for the past and the future.

We were also told to make a scientific diagram for our mythical bacteria. that is to put it in complicated words.


Day33

Today we created a mindmap of the so called “actors” of bio technology and who was on which side.

We also had 2 artists from Level10 comics to talk about the process of making a comic and the steps involved. They also showed us some of their works.


Day 34

Each of us was given a topic to do further research in. my topic was Bioethicists



Bio artists

Stellarc:

Stellar tries to integrate the biological and technological advances using the human body as the test subject. He tries to show the thin line that exists today between technology and the body which will be broken very soon.


Orlan:

Orlan again uses her own body as a canvas. But instead of technology she uses plastic surgery. If fine art is a visual medium, then Orlan herself is a walking exhibit. Orlan embraces the technology of the time by undergoing these procedures but rejects everything they stand for. Instead of making herself “pretty”, she makes herself grossly disfigured. Orlan is the only artist working so radically with her own body, asking questions about the status of the body in society.


Patricia Piccinini:

The work is quite interesting because of

1. It’s life like feeling.

2. Also at first one thinks it is completely impossible & imaginary but at closer inspection realise we are not far from achieving what she has made and that creating such animals are quite possible.

3. Her art creates ethical debates about the advancements in technology & biology and its relation to nature. And how it is the responsibility of the creator for the new creatures uncertain ethical and physical results.



My assignments

Living sculpture:(living furniture)

Most of the furniture that we use in places like the lawn or at the beach are made of wood that has been cut from living trees. this living sculpture has both a use and aesthetics. Instead of cutting trees why not grow the according to the shape you need.

The concept of tree shaping requires one to bend the tree in a desirable shape when it is a small plant. As the tree grows the shape is retained and the bark hardens to form the required shape. This can be called ecofriendly furniture. As the tree branches out, the leaves give shade. It is also cooler below the tree. Also since the tree produces oxygen, the air under the tree is fresh. My final project is to make a living chair.

"Tree shaping.jpg"

I am starting by bending smaller plants and make in a simple loop(1st June). I used string to hold the shape and check after a month.

Roll 2.JPG Roll 4.JPG

After a moonth: The plant retains the shape but still needs some time to maintain that shape.


Hypothetical bacteria:(Pressure sensitive Thermo Bacteria)

The Srishti School of art design and tech. has created bacteria that emits heat when pressure is applied on it. It consists of tiny turbine like particles on it’s cell walls. When pressure is applied the cell produces an enzyme that causes the turbines to spin. These cells are tightly packed together in a tiny porous container. The activated turbines hit each other producing heat. The collected heat is magnified by the bacteria and is concentrated at the point of pressure. The temp ranges from 100 to 500 degrees.

Bact 0.jpg Bact1.jpg

The porous container itself is a living organism which concentrates all the heat on the point where the pressure is and spreads the heat across the area where pressure is. both the bacteria live along with each other as symbiotes. The heat producing bacteria feeds on the nutrients supplied by outer shell which is made of sugars and fatty acids. On the other hand the outer shell depends on the thermo bacteria for its shape and heat. Using some amount of the heat produced by the thermo bacteria, the porous outer structure converts cellulose into simple sugars which is food for both the organisms has pores that are about 0.01 nm in diameter all over it which are used to vent out all the extra heat in the form of steam (water is one of the byproducts of converting cellulose into sugar.)

The organism reproduces by binary fission. When the shell is overloaded with the bacteria it expands until it breaks into 2 pieces. The 2 pieces join to themselves to form 2 separate structures. The outer structure does not break unless there is an internal pressure applied and it immediately joins when it breaks and grows to its normal size in 5 hours to incorporate more bacteria. The bacteria can be killed using an electric charge of 20 volts (D.C.), thus its growth can be controlled.

This organism can be used for security purposes, as they are too small to be seen and produce enough heat to burn the body. If the amount of heat given out (number of collisions between spindles) can be controlled it can be used for various reasons e.g. Cooking, hot tubs, heated chairs, etc. And being organisms that can reproduce, they don’t need to be replaced.


Imagenary machine:(Projector bacteria)

The bacteria simply projects ones thoughts to a tangible 2D presentation. These bacteria live in the brain. It is a long egg like structure with 2 antennas. These bacteria are fixed on a circular moving belt. The bacteria pick up brain waves with the antenna and produce an image corresponding to the wave.

Bact 3.jpg

The optic nerve of the right eye touches one of the bacteria and picks up the image. As the rotating belt moves the optic nerve picks up other images and forms a stop motion of the thoughts in the mind on the retina. The image on the retina is inverted.

The bacteria secrete an enzyme that runs along the optic nerve and makes the retina emit light. The image on the retina gets projected on to the lens of the right eye and is diverged by the lens thus magnifying the images it gets projected. The user of the bacteria can voluntarily secrete an enzyme that makes the optic nerve move away from the bacteria, thus stopping the projection and the eye starts to function normally. The bacteria reproduce by binary fission. One of the daughter bacteria replaces the parent and the second bacterium gets attatched to belt and acts as food for the bacteria.


DIY Equipnent

DIY Incubator DIY Sterlisation Hood DIY Water Bath ReacTable


iGEA:(E.Cloudy)

Bacteria which help coordinate your music with the weather
Ec1.jpg


Escheriscia Cloudy or E. Cloudy is a Bacteria which is temperature sensitive and produces electricity. Its unique mix of qualities has been used to program a machine which plays music play lists of the user’s choice depending on the weather.

The E.Cloudy bacterium have been created by combining two existing BioBrick parts –

-BBa_K098995, responsible for the thermo sensitivity.(designed by the Harvard 2008 igem team)

-BBa_K499271, responsible for the electricity.( designed by Boris Kirov igem 2010 )

How the two BioBricks are connected

•The thermo sensitive complex produces a certain protein on exposure to heat. This protein triggers off the second complex, making it generate a current

How the machine works

•The temperature sensitive bacteria creates current depending on the climate temp (more temp = more current).

•The current passes through an amplifier to get a readable current.

•As current passes through the voltmeter the needle moves increasingly.

•Each temp range triggers the playing of a certain play list( ex a range of 0-10= soothing play list/ energetic play list depending on the user).

•The machine has its own software which is loaded onto a computer or laptop. The machine is connected to the computer with a USB cable.

Picture1.jpg

Deeper into the Bacteria

•The bacteria self reproduce.

•They are in a way cannibalistic; Every time a bacteria reproduces, the mother bacteria is consumed by the child.

Ec2.jpg


How it could Fail and Why this over a fully mechanical system?

The system could malfunction if –

•The bacterial container got contaminated by anything that could kill or reduce capacity of the bacteria.

•We don’t know if the electricity would kill the bacteria.

Why this?

The same machine can be made using a thermometer, however, with a thermometer, there arises a chance of it getting ruined permanently. Also it can be looked upon as an alternative, a novelty, an exploration. How it ties into the criteria detailed by the contest

•Social critique – creates moods, makes you question your own mood and keeps you conscious of the weather and its changes.

•This ties into remix culture – apart from the obvious remixing of genes that the original escheriscia coli have undergone, looking it at it from an artistic angle, it’s sort of like replacing your weather man’s report with your own bacterial weather report!


The effects of this bacterial product on the world.

We have divided the consequence of introducing this product into the market into categories such as –

Socio-Cultural

We feel that this product has high potential to enter popular culture. It’s something which would help take individualism to a new level. It could be a new way to bring nature closer to us and observe it better.

Economic - Financial

The circuitry of this product wouldn’t be expensive, but producing the bacteria maybe the one to raise the price. •Who would be able to afford it?

•What percentage of the population does this group make up?

•Why would they want to buy it? (novelty and interest could lead to a social phenomenon!)

•Does this say anything about us as consumers?

•How much of an effect would it have on our economy?

Technology

We’ve seen bacteria producing fuel and the idea of the bacterial battery. Could energy producing bacteria be our future power houses?

How would a product integrating living cells into a non-living machine be received by the tech industry?

Science

Could this product trigger off another set of ideas that could be beneficial to other sciences? We think it’s a possibility.

Art

Art is deceptive, it can pack a hard punch without seeming like it.

Art has a lot to do with creating a sense of awareness, to make people question things around them.

The concept behind this product (apart from being aware of the weather it creates awareness in how two very different genes, from possibly to very different organisms have been put together to create a machine) could lead us to questioning our rights to remix things (also, is it ok to mix the machine with living cells?) , our rights to play with natural selection, can we define this as a form of natural selection?


Bacteria based on indian myth:(The Holy Trinity)

When was the last time you ever read an Indian mythological story and asked your self – what if I can do that? Indian Mythology is known to be the most culturally rich, colourful, dramatic and at the same time metaphorically ambitious story, ever told. The numbers of different versions are more than the number of sarees that came off Draupadi! It’s like a roller coaster ride of emotions which at the end of every story brings in ‘balance’.

As an Artist and Designer, whenever we read an Indian mythological story I have to say it’s quite amazing because these are some stories that have characters that can pretty much do whatever they want! Gods.... Isn’t that what we all want? To do whatever we like? And not have to worry about consequences? And just know that at the end of it all there will be balance? I think that’s some food for thought.

As a team, we first read through the most famous stories in Indian mythology, and then had a fascinating discussion with a learned scholar in mythology and history. Arshia (the scholar) helped us put our facts together in the most fun filled way which after a few drinks turned out to be a very satisfying knowledge-full night.

Our task now (which is the most interesting part) was to find links and parallels to any myth and use synthetic biology to fill the gap! I find that highly fascinating. SO we went through a few myths and as soon as we landed on Shiva’s third eye, there was a full stop. Shiva’s third eye is the destroyer, when he opens it; disaster is all over the place. So the last you want to do it tick him off. We took that in a metaphorical sense and thought about what if that third eye was a way for us to see when our real eyes are shut? So what if I had bacteria that could communicate with thoughts through neuron activity and when I’m wired up to a projector, it displays my thought in 3D space. Then communication would be in its most pure form since there is a lot of loss when converting thought to word or deed. Then what if I wired up to another person and started communicating with thought! Or if I left messages for someone on a platform and they could later wire up and receive it. But as usual there’s always a ‘BUT’, and the first one here is privacy. Privacy is by far the most delicate issue here. SO we kept this on hold for the time being and instead of looking at parts of a myth we moved away and looked at the Big Picture.

Collages.jpg

Main 2.JPG

The Holy Trinity – Brahma, the creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the destroyer. These are the first and foremost gods that rule the heavens, earth and hell. As you’re reading this don’t those three words –creator, preserver and destroyer burst out of your imagination and find its way to synthetic biology? Well, that’s exactly what happened to us. So here’s our idea.

Collages2.jpg

In a over populated culture of bacteria. There is ‘imbalance’ since there more bacteria to eat than the nutrition available. So the ‘gods’ are summoned! The VISH-gene bacteria (the preserver) now gets into action by producing a chemical to which ONLY the SHIV-gene bacteria (the destroyer) can read. This then activates the SHIV-gene bacteria to in turn produce a chemical which start disrupting the bacterial cells in the colony. The ‘gods’ bacteria are of course resistant to this chemical. The SHIV-gene bacteria once activated has no control over killing the other cells. So once he has destroyed ample number of cells, he needs to be stopped, which ONLY the BRAHM-gene can do. So now the VISH-gene bacteria produces another chemical which ONLY the BRAHM-gene bacteria can read and this in turn activates the BRAHM-gene bacteria to produce a chemical to deactivate the SHIV-gene bacteria. Now there’s been too many bacteria killed so after a while of reproduction the optimum level is reached and ‘balance’ is restored. The subjects are happy and so are the gods. Soon after reproduction hastens up and there is over population again so the whole process is initiated making it a loop.

Main 1.JPG

BRAHM-gene bacteria are identified with the presence of the BRAHM-gene. When the BBRAHM- gene replicates it does not transfer it’s genetic material completely, instead it retains one part of the gene, so the other bacteria now is the VISH-gene bacteria. When the BRAHM-gene bacteria replicates for the second time it does not transfer the BRAHM-gene at all making the new organism the SHIV-gene.

We’d like to think that this mythological concept, besides being fascinating will definitely find its way to a good purpose in the world of Synthetic Biology. So wait up until then.


Scientific reprisentation

Bvs.jpg Bvs2.jpg

07) The promise of Synthetic Biology:


Such is the promise of synthetic biology, which, according to the people who have tried to explain it to me, is basically a marketing term for all kinds of research in which scientists tinker with biological bits to make useful things — sort of like living Lego blocks.

The gift of man-made life — biofuels made of algae, tumor-seeking microbial missiles — comes wrapped in a risk: What if the oil-eating bug mutates, as the horror-movie version inevitably does, and starts eating other things — like us?

It's perhaps not surprising that when bioethicists describe synthetic biology, they sound like the characters in Jurassic Park. "When dealing with biological entities," notes Thomas Murray, president of the Hastings Center, a bioethics organization, "life has a tendency to find a way."

Accidents at power plants are bad enough. But a leak from a bioreactor could be worse, since bacteria can learn new tricks when you're not looking. Microbes excel at exchanging DNA, Murray notes — "like microbial French kissing." That bug we introduce into the ocean to sip the spill might end up swapping DNA with other living things. "We have a ways to go," he says, "before we can really know what risks we're running if we release these organisms into the environment."

Without public oversight, we are certain to wake up one day to news of some private breakthrough that rattles our bones: a human-animal hybrid, a cloned child, a fetus grown solely to harvest its parts.

As laboratories incubate new blends of man and machine — creatures whose creators used a keyboard — it seems mad to say that philosophy should not intervene.

The path of progress cuts through the four-way intersection of the moral, medical, religious and political — and whichever way you turn, you are likely to run over someone's deeply held beliefs. Venter's bombshell revived the oldest of ethical debates, over whether scientists were playing God or proving he does not exist because someone re-enacted Genesis in suburban Maryland. Others dismiss the worry on the grounds that creating new forms of life is not the same as creating life. One doctor friend of mine suggested that "they haven't created life in any sense of the word, other than a person playing a cassette has invented the tape recorder."


"It is vital that we as a society consider, in a thoughtful manner, the significance of this kind of scientific development," Obama writes.

"Synthetic biology certainly raises deep philosophical and moral questions about the human relationship to nature," according to Gregory Kaebnick, a Hastings Center scholar who is managing the project. "It's not clear what the answers to those questions are. If by 'nature' we mean the world around us, more or less as we found it, we may well decide that synthetic biology does not really change the human relationship to nature—and may even help us preserve what is left of it."

Myth: Cellulosic ethanol is a decade or more away. Fact: The world's first cellulosic ethanol production facility -- owned and operated by Iogen in Ottawa, Canada -- has been converting wheat straw into ethanol since 2004. Abengoa Bioenergy is completing construction of a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility, located in Salamanca, Spain, that will by the end of 2007 begin producing 1.2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol from wheat straw each year.


Conclusion: People are bound to disagree about when scientists are crossing some moral Rubicon. That is all the more reason to debate, in public and in advance, where those boundaries lie — rather than doing so after the fact, when researchers are celebrating some technical triumph and the rest of us are wondering what price we will pay for it.

Information from:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1997447,00.html

http://machineslikeus.com/.../moral-issues-raised-synthetic-biology-subject-hastings -center-workshop - .html

http://www.economist.com/node/16163154/comments?page=1.html

bioethicists:

Biodesign India

Redesigning life for novel applications

http://biodesignindia.org/index.htm


The evolving synthetic biology community in our country needs to discuss unique ideas, interest groups, synergies, funding avenues and useful applications. The key goal will be to identify areas where India has potential to take global leadership.


Etc group

http://www.etcgroup.org/en/issues/biotechnology

ETC Group is not fundamentally opposed to genetic engineering, but we have profound concerns about the way it is being foisted upon the world. In the current social, economic and political context, genetic engineering is not safe, and involves unacceptable levels of risk to people and the environment. For ETC Group, the fundamental issue is control.

Reports:

Patenting the "Climate Genes" ...and Capturing the Climate Agenda

Direct-to-Consumer DNA Testing and the Myth of Personalized Medicine: Spit Kits, SNP Chips and Human Genomics

Terminator: The Sequel

ETC Group Report on Geoengineering Climate Change

Extreme Genetic Engineering: An Introduction to Synthetic Biology

Nanotech Rx-Medical applications of Nano-scale technologies: What Impact on Marginalized communities?

A Tiny Primer on Nano-scale Technologies ...and The Little BANG Theory

Down on the Farm: The Impact of Nano-scale Technologies on Food and Agriculture

Report Prepared for the South Centre - The Potential Impacts of Nano-Scale Technologies on Commodity Markets: The Implications for Commodity Dependent Developing Countries


Johns Hopkins (Berman Institute)

http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/humanRights/research/groups/Bioethics.htm

Berman Institute scholar calls for a new legal, ethical framework for research with human tissue specimens What’s known on the subject: There is growing concern and confusion about the use of “banked” human tissue and cells for research. Several court cases involving the use of human tissue specimens, recent stories in the news, as well as the popularity of a book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, all reflect a growing interest in the rights and expectations of the people who provide tissue samples and DNA for research. What this article adds: This review contends that the current legal and ethical framework for the use of human tissue specimens in research fails to consider the role or preferences of the tissue contributors, and argues that courts have failed to apply a consistent legal framework in addressing disputes between contributors and recipients of the biological samples used in research. This paper proposes a framework that acknowledges the separate contexts and relationships inherent in that distinction, and sets out the social, legal and ethical perils of ignoring the role that tissue sample providers play in the research enterprise.


LSE BIOS

http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/humanRights/research/groups/Bioethics.htm

The Bioethics, Rights and Human Rights group is led by Dr Alasdair Cochrane.

Members:

Btihaj Ajana (BIOS)

Perveen Ali (Department of Law)

Rachel Bell (BIOS)

Meg Clinch (BIOS)

Caitlin Connors (BIOS)

Dr Carrie Friese (BIOS)

Dr Roberto Fumagalli (Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method)

Professor Conor Gearty (Department of Law)

Amy Hinterberger (BIOS)

Professor Emily Jackson (Department of Law)

Kerstin Klein (BIOS)

Dean Peters (Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method)

Dr Joelle Abi Rached (BIOS)

Dr David Reubi (Public & Environmental Health Research Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

Professor Nikolas Rose (BIOS)

Dr Igor Stramignoni (Department of Law)

Dr Sivaramjani Thambisetty (Department of Law)

Dr Scott Vrecko (BIOS)

Dr Ayo Wahlberg (BIOS)

Jeremy Williams (Department of Government)

Alasdair Cochrane joined the Centre for the Study of Human Rights in 2007. He teaches on the core course for the MSc Human Rights ‘Approaches to Human Rights’, as well as on an undergraduate option in Sociology, ‘Environmentalism: Theory Politics and Practice’. Prior to joining the Centre, Alasdair taught in the Department of Government at the LSE, where he completed his PhD. He holds a 1st Class BA in Politics from the University of Sheffield, an MSc in Political Theory, and a PGCHE, both from the LSE. Alasdair Cochrane’s research interests include the philosophical justification of rights, contemporary political theory, environmentalism, animal ethics and bioethics.

Selected publications include:

-“Ownership and Justice for Animals”, Utilitas, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Dec, 2009).

-“Do Animals Have an Interest in Liberty?”, Political Studies Vol. 57, No. 3 (Oct, 2009).

-“Animal Rights and Animal Experiments: An Interest-Based Approach”, Res Publica, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Sep. 2007).

-“Environmental Ethics”, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, (www.iep.utm.edu).

-Selected research projects under review and in preparation include:

-“Undignified Bioethics” (paper)

-“Evaluating the Political Conception of Human Rights” (paper)

-“Are Human Rights Speciesist and Does it Matter?” (paper)

-Animal Rights without Liberation (book)

-An Introduction to Animals and Political Theory (book)


The Hastings Center

http://www.thehastingscenter.org/Publications/BriefingBook/Default.aspx

The Hastings Center, founded in 1969, is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit bioethics research institute based in the United States. It is dedicated to the examination of essential questions in health care, biotechnology, and the environment. The center has over 200 fellows, including many physicians, attorneys, PhDs and bioethicists.

Bioethics Briefing Book

From Birth to Death and Bench to Clinic: The Hastings Center Bioethics Briefing Book for Journalists, Policymakers, and Campaigns contains 36 overviews of issues in bioethics of high public interest, such as abortion, health care reform, human and sports enhancement, organ transplantation, personalized medicine, medical error, and stem cells. The chapters, written by leading ethicists, are nonpartisan, presenting reasonable considerations from various perspectives that are grounded in good scientific and ethical facts. They each include recent news stories, clickable experts to contact, linked resources, and (where available) recent legislation and campaign positions. Greater detail on how to use the book is in the introduction. The three framing essays offer valuable insights into the historical and increasing relevance of bioethics to public policy.


Biotechnology Regulatory Bill of India – Five Fallacies

Find out the loopholes in the bill which can have disastrous effect not to India alone bu to whole world at:

http://scienceray.com/technology/biotechnology-regulatory-bill-of-india-five-fallacies/


Mind map

Bioethisists mindmap.jpg