Karthik Ilango

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Journal

10 May 2010 Got up this morning and while I completely woke up with my morning coffee I caught myself curious about what iGem had in store for me. I had done biology a long time ago in high school and the concept of genetic modification really interested me. Biology catching up with me in design school was just awesome. I liked the idea that I would be creating something at a different level. New mediums are always exciting.

Walked into class and was confronted with a lot of information. Some of it was a recap from what I have done before and a lot of it was new. We raced through about few hundred years of micro biology and the important events that influenced thought and perception of cells and life and their creation.

I was also given some insight into the possibility that genetic engineering and modification might not be a very positive thing. There are many risks and costs involved. Im sure that everyone else must have also had some thoughts on this matter. But do the people in power of using and spreading this technology and knowledge have the same? IF they do, what and how do they plan to use it?

I left back to my apartment, craving for another cup of coffee but still excited about what the next few weeks were going to bring.

11 May 2010

Information, information, information!!! There was so much of it. Termanologies were flying out quite fast, I was a little overwhelmed with it all. I was trying to take it all in and make sense of it at the same time. It was reinforcing to learn that Mendel was a monk and that Leeuwenhoek was a cloth merchant!!

I was a little startled to notice that the functioning (reading and manufacturing of information) of a Genome was similar to programing. A,C,T,G were like 1 and 0 Could we eventually be messing around with life like we do with computers? We were already kind of doing it now. Where is it going to go? I am a little skeptical about humans.


12 May 2010 We learnt about mutation today, how the change of even a single base pair in the DNA sequence can cause a very significant phenotypical change. I was a little startled to learn that smoking causes a change in a particular gene which can cause a permanent change, possibly causing cancer. Left class contemplating how chemicals, which are non living, combined in certain ways to create life. Where is the line where so called non-living things become living.


13 May 2010 Proteins was the topic of the day today. I do some of what I learned in school, especially about the two main types of structurally different proteins, enzymes and structural proteins. The importance of temperature and ph levels are important for proteins. If the two factors are either too high or too low there is a chance for the protein to denature permanently, like how once an egg is cooked it hardens permanently. The factors are important for the optimum functioning of enzymes also. which is why it is dangerous if the human core body temperature is too low or too high, most body functions begin to break down.


14 May 2010 Most of the processes in the body run on or are dependent on proteins. Each protein performs a particular task. All the information to produce a particular protein for a particular task is encoded into the genome of an individual. The store for all the information is in the genome of that individual. As discussed before small changes in the sequence can cause major in the individual.


17 May 2010 We went further into genome sequencing and an understanding of what a genome is; and how useful this understanding of various sections of the genome and what phenotypical change it corresponds to, could be in understanding our bodies. People suffering from genetically related disorders or diseases can be treated to some extent using gene therapy which was an outcome of learning about and isolating genes. Its something like fixing a bug or glitch in a software by comparing it with a correctly written one. The same principals of understanding what gene does what can be used to create genetically modified crops (BT brinjal) and even pets (like the glofish... google it)

For our next assignment we had to 'create' a creature (any creature). This was just way cool. I knew it was just on paper, but the prospect of kind of playing god was exciting.

Oh yeah I think we are gonna extract DNA tomorrow, quite excited.


18 May 2010 We started watching the BBC series of the cell; what a journey!!!. It left me a little dazed to think about millions of tiny little creatures evolving to such and extent that it makes me. "I" am a collection of millions, no billions of these cells working together. So who am "I".

Recombinant dna is the created from two or more sources of genetic information and 'glued' to form a single man made DNA polymer. What is man made?? if man is the product of the evolution of these cells, then maybe creating recombinant DNA is part of a higher process of evolution.


20 May 2010 Missed yesterday because I was sick and I'm still not feeling that great today either, but we were going to present our organisms today and I was quite excited to see what everyone had come up with also. I liked aarons organism, which would copy the genetic material of other organism to improve itself. I came up with a hypothetical 'booster cell' which attached itself to other cells of the body and provides them with more energy in the form of atp, so that the cell can function faster/more efficiently.

21 May 2010 Our initial assignment was to create an organism, and I thought most of the concepts that came out were quite cool. We had a discussion on the purpose. The purpose of organisms that exist today. We had all assigned a specific purpose in 'relation to humans' to the organisms that we created, so for the next assignment we had to create an organism which 'had no purpose'. No purpose? My mind went back to the the discussion of purpose and the meaning of purpose, both Aaron's as well as Yashas points of view, though contradictory, made sense to me, so I was left a little mind boggled.(I kind of agreed with yashas though) Decided ill ponder the idea for a while longer before I decide on anything, lets see what I come up with.

22 May 2010 Craig Venter announced the the creation of the first synthetic cell (synthetic cell? my mind went back to the whole, what is man made and what is not conundrum). Well now humans can create cells that they can 'program', how far will this technology go? If it develops as fast as todays technology, I may be able to experience some of its products. How will it be used, I wonder.


28 May 2010 Ha ha, its quite funny, no one seems to know much about what we are supposed to know by now, me not being the exception. It was quite embarrassing to be sitting there clueless. Im sure yashas is cursing everyone on the inside. Except for aaron, no one else seems to have really got anything done. In my defence I had no clue we had to write a journal like this, I was up till 4 am last night doing the log, remembering days of high school and law school where just was writing notes, and which is what I did. Its quite dry in contrast to Aarons work, and this happens to be my first log entry that is reflective rather than an account or notes of what happened in class.