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Monday, April 19, 2004

End Game 

Potentially, biotechnology can be a great benefit or a great burden on our society in the future. It is my opinion that the development of the biotech as a science would lead to fruitful breakthroughs with less risk to health. Just because something is potentially dangerous does not mean that we should give up on it. This field has the potential to become a great achievment for humanity in certain cases, but it will be the regulation of developments in the other shadier areas within the boundaries of common sense and ethics that will ultimately prove its worth.

In our discussion, I feel that we have successfully unearthed many of the pros and cons of individual subfields within Biotechnology in order to give the public a more accurate view of the field as a whole. Around the world, the debate will continue, and I only hope that these entries will provide meaning to the thoughts of others. Finally, I want to encourage the audience to sensefully comment on entries for feed back purposes.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Final Thoughts on Our Discussion 

I think that we have successfully covered several underlying topics within biotechnology while looking at both sides of the debates. I noticed that with all the posts, individuals concentrated more on either the ethics behind genetic engineering or on the prospective benefits. I also noticed that everyone acknowledged the importance of both concepts.

Even though I usually focus more attention on the potential of biotechnology, this debate has allowed me to think deeper about the moral side. I still think that genetic engineering should be explored and utilized to its fullest, but we should be careful not to tread on ethical boundaries. I also believe, however, that many individuals have irrational values which only impede the prosperity of humankind. They take their beliefs too far without considering common sense. I hope that this discussion will encourage those kinds of people to think more openly. I also hope that we have cleared up many questions while inspiring many more.

The End! 

So after all this research and information has been posted and read and debated I think the general consensus of this blog is that biotechonology should advance with a great deal of thought to the possible consequences. To quote Spiderman: "With great power comes great responsibility." The amount of possibilities is so endless, both good and bad, that there is a great deal of consideration that must be taken into account before power leads to greed. The ethical debates could go on for years and never come to fruition during which time the biotechnology industry could be popping out genetically engineered everythings including humans. As long as certain restrictions and ethics are applied genetic engineering could be the best thing to ever happen to the medical field and many others.

Biotech Helping and Hurting the World 

Overall genetic engineering has a very large potential to help the world, including saving lives and bettering people and creatures. However, biotechnologies in general all have a very large potential of going in the wrong direction and being used very badly to hurt both the world and humanity. So if further research was to go into advancing biotechnology, it should be kept under very close supervision and not allowed to get out of hand, because if any technology we develop gets out to the world there will be no control over it and it will go in the wrong direction, away from helping the people and planet.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

That's All Folks! 

Well, this concludes a few weeks of learning on my part. I knew nothing about biotechnology going into this, and wasn't really sure about my views on the subject. Now however, I believe I have learned a decent amount of material on the topic, and if needed I could find out more. The possibilities seem endless, but they also seem questionable. Whehter or not genetic engineering of food, cloning, or any other biotech concept is worth it, is a personal decision I think everyone will need to make on their own. Look at your morals, your ethics, and then decide whether the said benefits outweigh the side-effects. As of yet, I still can't take a solid stand, but at least now I am informed in my uncertainty.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Jurassic Park, Against God and Nature 

In the movie Jurassic Park, a scientist succeeds in cloning dinosaurs and bringing them back into the world. While this might be an interesting idea and make for a good movie, is it ethical and what affects does it have over the natural world. Cloning dinosaurs would solve many puzzles scientist have about the world a long time ago. However, bringing back a creature that naturally went extinct long before humans were ever on the planet goes against both nature and God. This creature all went extinct because they were no longer able to compete with new animals emerging and so due to natural selection, were forced out. If a person is religious then God had a reason for killing off the dinosaurs and so bring them back would be going against the will of God.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

In the Movies... 

In Jurassic Park, dinosaurs are recreated. Simple enough idea, right? Find some dna in fossilized insects, reconstruct with modern lizards. But is this all possible? I don't know. However, I definately don't think it would be a good idea, because the consequences are uncalculable. These animals died out for a reason. What that reason is I don't know, but to bring them back could really screw with things. Further, who are we to attempt to play God by bringing back creatures from a past time, from the dead. Maybe its Doable...buts its not smart, at least not in my opinion.

Living Dead 

Sara thoroughly highlights the preposterousness of recreating dinosaurs through genetic engineering in her latest post. But, what if by some form of crazy luck scientists were able to do so? What if we really could bring extinct species back into the environment? Would it necessarily be a good thing?

In Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, scientists end up regretting their establishment of an island inhabited by prehistoric creatures. Even if those organisms were not a threat to mankind, would it still have been a bad decision? I believe so. Animals that go extinct (despite man’s role in their endangerment) are simply following Darwinian rules of evolution. If a species cannot survive in nature and dies out, humans should not interfere. Nature should be allowed to take its course. Although an ecosystem can suffer from the removal of a type of organism, it can suffer just as much with its reintroduction.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Jurassic Park... just a movie? 

While being an excellent source of entertainment, and thoroughly engrossing, Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park has a few fundamental flaws in the science department. One includes the recombination of dinosaur DNA with frog DNA. DNA runs in codes from 5' to 3' along the DNA strand. The missing links in the chain would have to be competent, that is able to take up exogenous DNA or plasmid DNA (extrachromosomal self-replicating units of heredity). Competence occurs naturally in some bacteria however most organisms (and more to the point BIG organisms) do not have this ability. Recent advances can make non-competent cells competent through a variety of different chemical methods but I believe at the moment it is not possible to ligate (glue) frog DNA with dinosaur DNA. On the other hand, if by chance there exists a sample of dino bone marrow or other cell types that stem cells could be derived from, there is a chance in the very far future of recreating dinosaurs. Again, there exist several complications with this as well. Any possibility of getting stem cells from dino cells would be virtually impossible. All biological processes that would allow these cells to live would have ended several million years ago. So unless you can combine The Mummy ("It still looks.... juicy") and Jurassic Park the likelihood of creating dinosaurs in the present is fairly minute. Although it does point out a fair social criticism that perhaps we should take genetic engineering a bit slow... don't want recreated dinosaurs escaping into cities and all that....

Could Genetic Engineering Lead to a World of Dinosaurs? 

I pose the following question to the audience: "Could genetic engineering lead to a world of dinosaurs?" The inspiration for this question undoubtedly emanates from Steven Spielberg's 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park. In the film, a wealthy entrepreneur employs genetic engineering to splice together dinosaur DNA found in mosquitoes preserved in amber with partial frog DNA filling in gaps. The genetic engineering of DNA instigates the creation of dinosaurs for the entrepreneur’s theme park, aptly named Jurassic Park. Theoretically, a sample of dinosaur DNA could be spliced together with frog DNA to fill in gaps in a genetic sequence. In my opinion, the current technology and knowledge limits the ability to produce a complete copy of the specimen derived through from a successful splice of DNA. I believe Jurassic Park is simply the culmination of the aspirations of the genetic engineering field hyped for consumption of an audience. Everyday, our knowledge of genetic engineering takes us one step closer to this end. I believe the creation of an extinct species of life like dinosaurs will inevitablly take a back seat to more important issues involving genetic engineerig.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Unnatural Flavor 

A very common area of genetic manipulation that is gone almost unnoticed for some people is that of genetically altering food. While in some cases it may seem beneficial such as genetically altering vegetables to have a natural pesticide in them or making them larger, there are many situations were this may not be helpful or healthy. Many companies genetically alter animals in order to bare more meat and have less waist products that will not be ate, but are these healthy, what other affects do these changes have on the animal that people eat, or how do the changes made to plants affect the environment around them. When plants are made to be more resistant to insects does it give them other unfair advantages that allow it to survive more easily and so take over and out compete other plants in the area if growing wild. How do these changes affect the natural world?

Friday, April 02, 2004

Food... You Are What You Eat 

Although genetic engineering can be beneficial because crops can be engineered to be resistant to pesticides or herbicides, it can have very severe consequences for the people eating them. From what I understand of food engineering it can be done through recombinant DNA. Endonucleases are the things that chop apart DNA into separate pieces. Certain DNA strands can take up DNA that has been chopped up from a different organism and form recombinant DNA. Where these pieces are put into the existing genetic code cannot yet be strictly controlled by scientists. This process can lead to mutations of the original functions of the proteins. These mutations have the possibility of creating allergens and toxins in the food that were not originally there. The effects on people are not yet widely known or able to be predicted for many types of altered foods. I personally feel that genetically engineering animals is too costly to make it reasonable for food sources. Breeding for selective traits is already a usable and well known way of providing better animals.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Food: The Next Generation 

Realistically, genetically altered food stuffs offer a variety of advantages in long run globalization. Genetically altered foods can have better resistances to weeds, pests, disease allowing for increased production with less herbicides or other chemicals on the food. The foods can also be modified to have a better texture, flavor, nutritional value. Case in point, rice, which provides more than half the daily food for one third of people across the globe, has been engineered to yield 35% greater nutritional value as well as consuming 30% more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere . A better yield in crop size as well as nutritional value provides a more efficient use of lands. Genetically modified food stuffs would also have a longer shelf life and be easier to ship. In the long run, it is my opinion that certain genetically modified food stuffs will be essential for globalization in order to feed the growing world.

http://www.globaltechnoscan.com/5thApril-11thApril/rice.htm
http://www.monsanto.co.uk/
http://www.srtp.org.uk/gmfood1.htm

Monday, March 29, 2004

I'm Hungry... 

So in relation to our topic lately, I have been thinking about food. And honestly, there's a lot of it out there, being genetically "enhanced" and we know little about what this actually does. We don't know the long term effects of it on humans, we don't know the effects of it on the food itself, and sometimes, we don't even know we are eating it. So I did a little research and found the Mothers for Natural Law. At first I thought they were over the top a little, but as I read their site, I realized they have a lot of good information. Obviously a little one sided, they aren't going to give benefits when campaigning against genetic food, but they bring up a lot of points that need to be considered.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Cloning our Future 

A very interesting and recent topic to reach bioengineering is that of cloning. Cloning while not a new idea was finally proven possible with the cloning of a sheep, but now that it is seen that we can do it how far should we take it? While there may be some benefits to cloning there are many negative areas that it could drift into, such as cloning humans and bringing back animals that have naturally gone extinct. Both of these are going against nature, in that the only time genetically identical humans should exist is in the case with twins or triplets, but creating genetically identical humans, is fist creating people and second copying them for one reason or another. While if it were possible to clone only certain body parts or organs for people in order to heal them is a different story, and beneficial, but cloning whole people is ethically wrong.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Attack of the Clones! 

While I think there are benefits to cloning such as reproductive cloning of animals for certain traits to be expressed and the production of human organs and tissues I also think there are better alternatives. Reproductive cloning is expensive as nuts and as thus we do not have the technology to do it accurately. The most recent explorations into monkey cloning have proven more difficult than other mammalian clones such as goats, pigs, rabbits, cows and rats. The most common problem includes signs of early aging or lack of essential nucleic acids and proteins that would allow normal cell function. The complications with monkey cloning would indicate that the more complex the mammal the more difficulties with the cloning process. It’s done through a process of somatic cell nuclear transfer. Basically they take out the nucleus in an egg cell and stick it into a different cell that doesn’t have a nucleus. This has proven basically impossible with human embryos; most never reach the blastocyst stage. Even if it were possible though, it would not be ethical. There are too many ways to exploit the uses of human cloning. Imagine if we could mass reproduce politicians.

On the other hand, there is always therapeutic cloning. This is done through nuclear cell transfer but instead of using somatic cells they use non-somatic cells. This means instead of attempts at recreating a whole human or animal, it is possible to create just the type of specialized cells needed for skin, organs or tissues. This would be very helpful for burn victims or people with organ failure. If adult stem cells are taken from the patient, the body is less likely to reject it and it doesn’t have the controversy of using embryonic stem cells and reproductive cloning.

More Information on Cloning: Human Genome Project - Cloning

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Clone Wars 

Cloning is not all bad. The main problem with it is that the current method of cloning is unsafe and there has been little success. Perfected cloning will offer a safe and effective method of reproduction for couples who cannot have childeren, or have lost a child. If a baby dies from an unpreventable event, the parents deserve a second chance to raise the child that they loved so much but was taken away from them too soon. Now, I am not advocating the creation of mass amounts of human clones which would stress the already tenuous environment, but am simply stating that it is an alternative to be sought only in special cases.

Also, cloning animals could prevent extinction and create more efficient food supplys. The clones of endangered animals could be reintroduced into its natural habitat allowing the once endangered species to flourish. Cloning the best cattle would produce more meat with less fat aloowing for increased production using the same natural resources.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Cloning 

So I was recently searching on google, when I happened to find a site on cloning...pretty touchy topic if you ask me...but has both a lot of positive and negative consequences. I don't quite know what to think on this topic. I would like to see the benefits from clones, mass organs available, better understanding our chemical make-up, even furthering the understand of our race. However, I don't know that I fully agree with it on an ethical stand point. Cloning raises a lot of question....would they have "souls" if such a thing exists, would it still be murder if we were cloning and killing the clones for organs, and would armies of clones come from cloning humans. Personally, right now in this time of human development I don't trust that the wrong people wouldn't be able to get their hands on cloning, but maybe some day in the future, with the correct laws, and with a strong mental standpoint on cloning, it could work...

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Against the Stem Cell Research. 

Embryonic Stem Cell Research, requires a living being to "donate" or provide the cells. To get these cells, the donator must be dead or aborted...which is murder in word. Other places in the world are also fighting agaisnt this type of research, which shows that it isn't just close-minded american's fighting against it. Now, I can see benefits to this research, anyone can. But the methods by which the stem cells are obtained are unethical. Some people say its a womans right to abort, and so those cells are able to be used. But the cells must be taken from what was once a living being, and therefore it is murder that provides the cells for this research. I personally agree with Andrew...not everyone is meant to survive, call it natural selection or what you will, but when we chose which babies are aborted, and which ones get new organs, we are chosing which ones survive and which ones die...and who do we think we are to make those kind of choices.

Embryonic stem cells shouldn’t go to waste. 

Everyday, promising new stem cell studies are published. For those unfamiliar with this genetic field, stem cells have no exact purpose in an organism’s body except to develop into specialized cells. Because they serve as a blank canvas, scientists feel that they can utilize these cells in many ways. They have the potential to treat cancer, neurological disorders, spinal injuries, cardiovascular damage, and even baldness. Stem cells are found in bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, and of course fetuses. Even though new sources are constantly investigated, embryonic stem cell research should not be completely abandoned.

Although individuals like Andrew - who do not respect a woman’s right to choose - argue that embryonic stem cell research promotes abortions, they do no realize the vastness of medical possibilities they are rejecting. More importantly, however, unwanted embryos should be used to benefit mankind instead of being wasted. If research can relieve human suffering and improve quality of life, it should be taken advantage of.

Stem Cells Unethical 

Embryonic stem cell research is unethical, in many ways. First, in order to retrieve the stem cells, they must be collected from aborted fetuses, which is wrong by its self. Abortion is the killing of a young human before it has a chance to see the outside world, in other word this is murder. So the very idea of using stem cells collected from aborted fetus’s means that it supports abortion and so supports murder of children. The source of embryonic stem cell is not the only cause for debate with the research and use of them. Stem cells would be used to help people, such as growing new organs for those people that have illnesses’s or are born with deformities. While this might look like a good thing, this is going against nature and the idea of natural selection. If a person is born with a deformity so severe that they will die because of it one day, then they should not have the chance to pass on their genes to another generation and keep their deformity in the gene pool. So stem cell research can tend to having people survive that shouldn’t and so keeping bad genes in the gene pool leading to the overall weakening of the human race.

Monday, March 15, 2004

The Pros of Stem Cell Research 

Many people today have definite positions on the controversial issue of the research on stem cells. Most people are against the research of stem cells. In this entry, I will attempt to waylay some fears of stem cell research with some of its advantages. Potentially, cell research has found a way to differentiate target cells from stem cells. Stem cells are simply undifferentiated cells. Stem cells are not only found in embryos but in bone marrow and tissue as well. Stem cells derived from the later two have become extremely effective in treating genetic deficiencies such as sickle cell disease. Research of stem cells has also linked its use as a treatment for infertility, other inherited diseases, organ transplantation, reconstructive technology and the prevention of extinction in endangered species. The ability to treat a variety of different problems should not be prevented because it will ultimately save peoples lives.

http://www.bioteach.ubc.ca/TeachingResources/Genetics/ProsConsCloning/Pro-TherapeuticWeb/index.htm

Profitable Genetic Engineering and Stem Cells  

A major concern in any genetic engineering is the possibility of profits arising from human genetic manipulations which is one of the reasons therapeutic cloning is less popular. For example: A woman of high social status with infinite monetary means dislikes the current functioning of her liver because she drank too much after going to Georgia Tech and the workload drove her insane, so she requests that a stem cell be derived from her bone marrow to create a new functioning liver, all for the low, low price of a half million dollars. On the other side of the world, a boy is born with multiple sclerosis, (<-- this could be any debilitating disease) who is unable to have new tissues easily manufactured because he was born into a lower income family.

Earlier Alex posted that there could be controversial issues such as creating "designer babies." Along those lines would be research institutes from various parts of the world "owning" their Olympic contestants... A competition to see which country can "mass produce" the best altered athlete. Or on a more sinister note, companies buying babies that have been engineered for manual labor or perhaps even worse, for military/battle intelligence.

Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World was written in 1932, not as scientific prophecy but as a means of social critique. Huxley's "moral of the story" seems to me a statement of "everything in moderation." I have similar views. Stem cells have HUGE potential for medical advances but there is something to be said for the sanctity of human life. While not religious, I certainly respect an individual’s right to live. The controversy really begins when it comes to "when does an individual become an individual?" Is it okay to use aborted stem cell tissues if used for altruistic means? A woman's right to choose whether or not to have a child is one that can often be in the (theoretical) child's interest. A small mass of cells completely unable to survive on its own and are indistinguishable from any other embryonic mass of cells is not an individual person and thus I cannot equate their destruction with murder. Consequently, I can certainly see both sides to the arguments but have to side with Subina on this one. There are just too many possibilities from embryonic stem cells to ignore.


Friday, March 12, 2004

Initial Views on Genetic Engineering and the like.... 

As a biomedical engineering student interested in genetic engineering, my views can be considered somewhat biased. However, there are very real and distinct possibilities in the advancement of medicine, foods, disease control and various other fields. Recent news reports include the genetic tracing to Parkinson's disease, leprosy, type 2 Diabetes, the production and mutations of viruses (and thus a working understanding of their functions and possible cures), animals engineered for leaner meat, plants engineered for herbicide tolerance or insect resistance, and bacteria engineered to produce drugs for livestock. There are millions of possibilities for the benefits but also a heated debate over the consequences of playing “God”. The biggest arguments over genetic engineering are usually reserved for the manipulation of human genes. If used to benefit the quality of life, there usually isn’t much debate. If used for cloning, stem cell research, improved athletic skill, etc., it becomes a crazy fight over what can be considered “crossing the line”. The processes of natural selection and evolution are being radically changed and a result could be overpopulation, increased spread of disease, hunger, homelessness, reduced industry, and a million other possibilities. I hope to get a better understanding of the issues, and research more up to date information through this project.

Andrew's deep thoughts 

Genetic engineering has become a very hot topic for debating lately. This is due to new technology that has been developed that allows for more extreme types of genetic engineering along with moving genetic engineering to a subject that interests more people, which is the genetic engineering of humans. People have been performing genetic engineering for a very long time now, such as the selective breeding of livestock in order to favor certain genetic traits in the species. Not until recent have we been able to actual manipulated the genes directly. This however can lead to helping the human race and other races a great deal. Genetic engineering can bring a cure to any kind of genetic disease, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell. Another use for genetic engineering is the genetic engineering of humans to bring out all the best qualities of their genes. This is a much debated topic due, though it is similar in many ways to selective breeding most people are uneasy about the idea because it is messing with humans. Overall there are many possibilities of what can come from genetic engineering.

Martini's Insight  

Bio-engineering. A topic that I have never really tried to look into, figuring that someone else with more interest would take care of all the facts and leave me to my life. However, seems like I will be doing some research of my own. As far as genetic engineering goes, I have never thought about it. I know it is performed on some foods, but dont' have a clue if any tests on animals or insects have been done. I don't know that I would support this because I believe creatures should be how initially designed...they are that way for a reason. Cloning, all I know is that a sheep was cloned a few years ago, and that it is illegal for humans to be cloned. I know absolutly nothing of stem cell research, except how to spell its name...although I have a feeling that will be changing very soon. Because I know so little about these subjects, my views are hopefully very open to the information I will learn, and might be changing as I do research...

Preconceptions Via Media Contamination 

Biotechnology covers a broad science with many intricate subjects of study. My preconceptions of biotechnology fall mainly with the heated debate over stem cell research and cloning. This debate spawns much controversy and a great deal of media attention. My knowledge is based primarily on the media coverage of events so, unfortunately, my preconceptions may be biased. From the dissemination of information through the media, stem cell research is claimed by researchers to have tremendous potential in a variety of medical applications including the prevention and correction of genetic defects. Gene therapy, cloning, and and the "regeneration" of organs are also plossible result of continued research. Cloning has become a major concern and outlet to media coverage. Proponants to cloning fear the use to create designer babies and other ethically questionable ends. Researchers claim cloning would produce better livestock and other benefits for humanity.

Let the arguing begin. 

I would like to welcome all of you to our biotechnology forum. Before I discuss any specific issues, I’ll talk about some of my personal opinions on biotechnology in general. As far as stem cell research goes, I completely favor it. I am aware that many people have moral objections to embryonic research, but if a fetus is aborted, its potential for medical benefit should not go to waste. I plan to explore this issue further and discuss it in later blog entries.

Because I am a biomedical engineering major, I am highly interested in all the current developments of cellular and tissue engineering, cardiovascular research, and the likes. I believe that genetic engineering has the potential to benefit humanity in unimaginable ways, but there are still ethical boundaries that everyone should take into consideration.