BioTech 177

Archive for the ‘week4’

GM Monkeys- Paul Yang 1,924

Posted on June 01, 2009 by paul

This could be considered as a late submission for my week 4 blog…

Recently, Dr. Vesna sent us an email and had a chance to talk with Dr. Gimzewski about GM Monkeys. These monkeys have glowing feet as they have recieved green fluorescnet protein (GFP) into their gene. 

These monkeys have been created from a group of Japanese scientists led by Erika Sasaki and 91 of embryos recieved GFP, and 80 were transferred to mothers. The science community praises this discovery as a break through in finiding cures for diseases such as HIV and Parkinsons. Their research for GM monkeys in the beginning rasied a number of ethical concerns that could increase number of experiments on primates. But some also claimed that this could actually reduce the number of tests being done on primates because “GM monkeys could reduce the number of animals needed because they provided better models for human diseases.” 

In my search for Genetically Modified Organisms, I ran into this interesting website featuring five bizzare Transgenic animals. 

This is called Lemurat. A cross breed of a lemur and a cat. They say this is very popular among Chinese ladies as a symbol of their wealth. 

This is Glofish. As in GM monkeys, they have recieved GFP of jellyfish so they could have glowing body as seen in the picture. 

This is called dolion. This is a crossbreed between lion and a dog. And they say this is the most remarkable example as to how far DNA and modern feritliation techniques could go. 

The spider is a cross between a common Italian Wolf spider and the ponga fern. The purpose of this bizarre crossbreed was to study the survival rates of spiders with built in camouflage versus those without in a series of studies on Natural Selection in New Zealand.

From a Oncomouse to Dolly to GM Monkeys, we humans have come a far away in creating genetically modified animals. The creating of these animals is to get better understanding of human diseases and find a possible cures through testing with these animals.  Finally, the incurbale diseases for centuries could be cured with help of these animals. But my thing is this. Do we really have to??? It is important saving lives of people but where we are at a point meeting overpopulation and food shortage, global warming due to ever growing human population. Prolonging life would not do us any good at this point. Is it really necessary in advancing our technology in this aspect right now?  Sacrificing animals, modifying their genetics to benefit oursleves. We are not only sacrificing them but also we are constantly destroying their home, the nature, with tremendous pollutions. It is true that these animals could only be produced in laboratory condition. But with the rapid rate of animal extinction, one day might come that we have to feed ourselves on GM animals like GM foods. And we already show a strong opposition to GM foods, then imagine eating GM animals. It is great that we are showing progress in this field of science. But sometime I feel we need to get our priority striaght. 


Posted on May 24, 2009 by maria_g

Nanotechnology and art are usually not concepts that are thought of in the same stream of consciousness. However, images like the ones above are certainly thought-provoking, not to mention gorgeous. Since I was unable to come to class due to a severe case of stomach flu (the term “expiration date” has gained a new meaning for me), I am going to write on researched material relating to nanotechnology and art.

The first use of the concepts in ‘nano-technology’ was in “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” a talk given by physicist Richard Feynman at an American Physical Society meeting at Caltech on December 29, 1959. Feynman described a “process by which the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules might be developed, using one set of precise tools to build and operate another proportionally smaller set, so on down to the needed scale” (nanotechnologyfordummies.com).

Meanwhile, artists have taken a new interest in science. Using optical microscopy under polarized light is one of the numerous methods of transofrming the science of nanotechnology into the intrigue of art. Ironically, however, the art of nanotechnology, which seems to create so many new possibilities for self-expression is also quite limited in its potential. Nanotechnology is the realm where materials have dimensions of 100 nanometers or less. Since a single hair is roughly 50,000-80,000 nanometers wide, nanoscale objects are not only too small to see but too small to photograph with even the most advanced of cameras. It takes devices like scanning electron microscopes to get nanoscale images of any sort. Moreover, since nanoscale particles are smaller than the wavelengths of visible light, the electron images that capture them are studies in gray (NY Times).

Images like the ones above make one wonder if the art of nanotech is the new photography. Exhibits holding new modes of art are now crossing cultures and conventionality. Among them is an exhibit where visitors observe a live view of a cell that’s projected onto the top of a table. Visitors can then use the cell’s shadows to move, manipulate, and reorient individual atoms in a way that is similar to operating the Scanning Tunneling Microscope.

This inspires me to drastically modify my final project. More specifically, rather than holding a one-visit exhibition, participants would be able to order a “mini-me”–a representation of a human body that is matched to the participants’ individual features such as height and body composition. Once they implement a proactive behavior that leads to health improvements, they would be able to manipulate the atoms of “their” bodies through the process described above. Their “mini-me” would be reinforcing in implementing and sustaining a positive, healthy lifestyle. More details to come as soon as I finalize this idea.

our self-destructive salvation 123

Posted on May 09, 2009 by maria_g

NOTE: For some reason, I am unable to insert images into the text. Thus, they appear as hyperlinks in this blog.

Essortment.com defines body modification as ” a universal art form that has been practiced for thousands of years.” The motivations for it include “sexual enhancement, a rite of passage, aesthetic reasons, denoting affiliation, trust and loyalty, religious or mystical affiliations, shock value, and self-expression.”

In a more modern context, body modification involves altering not only one’s exterior, but the anatomy within as well. Genetic modification has made it possible to produce identity-confused plants and glow-in-the-dark animals. Thus, one cannot help but wonder if the next step for transgenics will involve drastic modification of the human body.

Genetic and transgenic modification is not a new concept. GMOs can be found anywhere from agriculture to gene therapy. Thus it is necessary to set moral and legal requirements so as to ensure that genetic modification stays within reasonable boundaries.  But of course, this begs the question, “what is reasonable?” In the modern-day context of more than 4,200 religions, it is difficult to deem something morally appropriate, to say the least. Moreover, even though it is up to the individual to develop his/her own morals, all too often we become victims of the collective consciousness. Therefore, it is no wonder that people fail to see the greater good of genetic engineering (if executed within reasonable boundaries) and dismiss it as a big bad monster that strips humans of their…well…humanity. But what about all those ill-fated individuals with innate or acquired disorders such as MS or Alzheimers? What about those that spend every hour of every day in physical or mental agony because the society decided their pain is less important than some fluid, abstract concept of morality? Sure, in the context of such movies as The Sixth Day or The Island it might be easy to want to curb scientific progress, but the world is not black and white. For centuries we have been pushing social and scientific boundaries and blurring the distinction between good and bad. Homosexuality, for example was viewed by ancient Greeks as natural and appropriate; in the second half of the last century it was labeled as a mental disorder; and of course, nowaydays it is considered everything from normal to repulsive. Similarly, genetic modification is viewed as both positive/progressive and iniquitous/immoral, depending on the individual. As someone who insists on seeing both sides of the story, I believe that genetic modification could be our self-descructive salvation from innate illnesses an unexpected accidents.

If a picture is worth a thousands words, what would those words be when looking at this picture, or perhaps this one? Are we on a course for improving our life or only destroying it? Only time will tell…

Transgenic Animals and Drugs- Rozalin 125

Posted on May 05, 2009 by rozalin

          Our curiosity and desire to lead longer lives has led us to tamper with nature in the quest of possibly finding that perfect cure. In regards to plants and our foods we have created genetically engineered fruits that can withstand really cold weather or rice that is enriched with vitamin A to help those who live in areas lacking proper nutrition. Learning about animals, though I must say, has been quite interesting but at the same time somewhat creepy.

          I think our desires to mess with the genetic codes of animals come from a good place. Most transgenic experiments with animals are done in order to produce medications we humans direly need. More importantly through trangenics the production of medication can become less expensive and thus available to those who need it most. A pharmaceutical company named Genzyme Transgenics is in the process of developing transgenic animals for the production of anticlotting agents from goat’s milk. Although this is a noble idea and one which can save hundreds of lives, I wonder what the repercussions are if this does get passed by the FDA and comes into production.

 By Patricia Piccinini. This sculpture was sort of the face of the Becoming Animal exhibition at Mass MoCA.. it was on a lot of their publications and posters about the show

Use of transgenics can be dangerous; we don’t know what the effects will be on the animals producing the milk and protein. If there are mutations then it would be possible to create viruses or people may have allergic reactions to a product made to save lives. However, we have lived thus far with many genetic modifications in our environment and seem to be doing ok.

When I googled for transgenic animals I came across this picture by Patricia Piccinini who focuses a great deal on transgenic animals and what they look like and the outcomes their existence has. I found this picture quite astounding and thought I would share it with you all.

 By Patricia Piccinini. This sculpture was sort of the face of the Becoming Animal exhibition at Mass MoCA.. it was on a lot of their publications and posters about the show
By Patricia Piccinini. This sculpture was sort of the face of the ‘Becoming Animal’ exhibition at Mass MoCA.. it was on a lot of their publications and posters about the show



Genetic Engineering: A Step towards Saving Lives? 297

Posted on April 27, 2009 by Jennifer

Genetic Engineering: A Step towards Saving Lives?

This week lecture we have discussed about transgenic animals. The very first animal that you came to my mind when I think of the word transgenic or genetic engineering is “Dolly”, the very first cloned sheep, but the most interesting issue on the Monday discussion was the idea of people cloning themselves for the organ transplantation form the movie “The Island”. In the movie, the cloned person must be killed off to access the organ that was needed for the transplant. I kept wondering what if the scientists could invent a way that they could take the tissue of the patient who needed the organ transplant, and cloned and grew the necessary organ in the test tube rather than cloning the whole individual like the movie had suggested. This way the patient will avoid the complication of organ rejection since the organ that will transplant will be from their own tissue. This crazy idea for cloning of the organ also arrived from the artists who grow an extra ear from the tissue in the petri dish since there are shortages of organ for transplantation and some patient waited a long time on the waiting list, but died because they never received the organ. So, I have been researching whether the scientists have ever tested to grow the tissue in the test tube to grown an actual organ.

There have been reported that scientist have been trying to grow organ out of stem cells for many years. The breakthrough came when they discovered that they can actually take the cheek or skin cells and turn them back into stem cells from “Times of India”. This article  had also suggested that researchers are getting closer to be able to clone tooth from stem cells. These stem cells are found in adult wisdom teeth and baby teeth. Dr. Vacanti had also researching by building the biodegradable polymer base which can develop into extracellular matrix and blood vessels that are necessary for the organ. I also found this funny and interesting article about successful lab cloning penis which got transplanted for the rabbit. Since starfish can lose an arm and grow back a new one, we can only hope that there is a positive future for organ transplant with genetic engineering of the stem cells that can save many lives. April is also the organ donation awareness month and I would like encourage to list become a donor for organs and tissues donation.

Animal Genome Modification - Henry 123

Posted on April 27, 2009 by henry

This week in class we covered some topics on animal genetic modification that I found quite interesting. One of which was Dolly, the first cloned sheep. She was conceived in a lab using the nuclear transfer process with somatic cells. This process basically utilizes the idea of egg fertilization with a nucleus but it has flaws. According to the Roslin Institute, her age progression was quicker then most other sheep; or so it seemed. Dolly was initially cloned from a 6 year old sheep and they speculate that at birth, she was already 6 years old. She was expected to live approximately 11/12 years but only lived 6. Even the scientist that created Dolly, Ian Wilmut, had abandoned the procedure because he understood its implications. What does this mean? Well it means we need to look more into this procedure and cloning in general. We need to take precautionary methods when we perform more of these genetic modifications like considering long term effects.wilmut1
Another interesting topic covered in class was the GFP Bunny that was genetically modified using jellygish, Aeqorea Victoria, DNA. I have already talked about this bunny is my past blog, but it keeps coming up because it is an important milestone in the field of Transgenic Art. According to Equardo Kac, Transgenic Art is important because it opens up the door for things like human gene therapy. It could give us the ability to heal or improve the quality of life for people. Bans on this type of research would limit the human potential and could possibly prevent important breakthroughs in science that could ultimately cure genetic diseases. Also gene enhancement might be a possibility of the future. Kids could be born free of any disease, “built to spec,” and perfect in ever way. One day we could even change ourselves by altering our physical appearance using this gene enhancement. Who knows how far we could take this in the near future.

Animal Cloning and Transgenic Animals 648

Posted on April 26, 2009 by hui

In addition to GM food, genetic engineering in animals bear particular controversy because it implicates the possibility of genetic manipulation at a higher level of the food chain and its expanded, more direct impacts on biodiversity and human life. The fear and concern for genetically engineered animals is that it blurs the interspecies genetic separation by allowing transgenic genomic fusions that would not have occurred naturally. Moreover, the extreme distopic view emphasizes the slippery slope that one day we can also create GFP humans or other transgenic human forms.

In this discourse I think are several main questions that surface – (1) how does constructing transgenic animals change the relationship between animals and humans; (2) is it ethical to engineer interspecies transgenic fusions in animals; are we crossing the line set by the law of nature?; and (3) what are the consequences of transgenic animals on biodiversity and the ecosystem?

Personally I think that the comodification of animals have a long history. Previous history of using Nature’s template in selective breeding of stronger and more profitable race horses or farm animals shows that genetic engineering simply represents an additional venue available to commodify animals for our needs. It does not bear too drastic a change in the relationship between animals and humans; therefore the potential distortion of the relationship between animals and humans does not presents so serious an ethical concern.

Currently, the active genetic manipulation and construction of transgenic animals occur mainly in science laboratories. While the fusion of GFP in live lab animals may implicate the crossing of interspecies genetic separation, these lab animals were created with an intention to advance scientific knowledge. GFP transgenic animals allow studies of genetic tracing and enable scientists to answer questions of cell lineages during development or stem cell differentiation. These transmutations may sound like the fearful science fiction come true; however, I think that such use of transgenics is justified because it is a powerful technique that allows the direct visualization of the dynamic changes occurring real time in vivo in complex biological systems. While the potential of the transgenic manipulation may be unbound and uncertain, the ethical implications should be judged in conjunction with the intention of the science. As long as the breeding and handling of these animals are under regular scrutiny and constant, up-to-date regulation, the likelihood that the science may go awry can be minimized.


For the concern regarding the consequences of transgenic animals on biodiversity and the ecosystem, I think that the fear may be enlarged quite disproportionally. Most transgenic research animal models are raised and bred in the closely monitored and sheltered laboratory environment. I agree that there are insufficient research on the effects of transgenic animals on biodiversity and ecosystem. Yet since most transgenic lab animals are not created for the purpose of enhancing their fitness, lab animals that escape are not likely to be equipped with selective advantage in the wild; most likely, the lab environment they are accustomed to will confer disadvantages in terms of their poor survival skills and adaptations. Nevertheless, uncertainty makes the prevention of genetic mixing of transgenic animals and wild animals an important issue not to be overlooked.

Another particularly interesting issue with animals and genetics is the currently available technology to clone dogs. The first cloned dog, Snuppy, was reported by a South Korean research group led by Dr. Hwang Woo-suk from Seoul National University in 2005. And in 2008, the Korean biotech company RNL Bio reported receiving the first order to clone a pet dog, a pitbull named Booger, from a U.S. client named Bernann McKunney; the clone was created from the ear tissue of the deceased animal. This represents the first application of successful cloning of healthy animals. The major controversy that emerges from this happening is not only the effect of cloning animal pet on our emotional attachment, it questions the meaning of memory in the presence of a clone and the issue of genetic determinism. Indeed, to treat the cloned pet as the exact replica of the parent means that the fate of animal life, possibly also that of humans, is completely determined by our genetics.

Transgenic Animals 263

Posted on April 26, 2009 by Caroline



What is a transgenic animal? A transgenic animal is an animal that carries a foreign gene which has been deliberately inserted into its genome using a DNA recombinant technology. Some examples of transgenically modified animals include transgenic sheep or mice that express human proteins in their milk. Opponents of transgenic animals argue against meddling with nature by altering genes of animals. Many religious arguments have also arisen that we should not disrupt God’s will. However, after looking at different forms of genetically modified animals on Monday’s lecture, I have realized that this is another aspect of our society where art and science intersect, and that transgenic animals can also be considered a form of art. Although this concept is controversial, the benefits to human welfare from studying transgenic animals seem to be quite promising. Thus, as long as scientists are able to contain this strain of transgenic animals only for laboratory use and only for the sake of disease research, I think the process should be fully protected to continue. The picture below shows a transgenic mouse with Green Flourescent Protein (GFP) tag only expressed in bones. When the animal is under blue lights, the GFP expressing cells will glow green.


The lecture on transgenic animals and watching the movie The Island has made me ponder if our own identity as a human being is at stake. Many scientists now working with transgenic animals are attempting to create transgenic pigs that could serve as a organ donor. Soon, many of us will have hearts of pigs, or it could be possible that all our inner parts would be driven from pig parts. This raised a question for me of our value as a human being if all our vital parts are from that of other animals.

This leads to the idea presented in the movie, The Island, that people will be cloned to provide organs in need for the “real” human being. The movie’s point was that the cloned individuals are equally human as those who they were cloned for. Then, who are humans to degrade the value of life forms of other animals? Are human welfare the only thing that matters? The picture below is a green fluorescent pig that has reportedly been engineered by scientists in Taiwan. They claim the transgenic animal was produced by inserting genes of gellyfish into pig embryos. This again, raises the question of whether or not humans truly have the right to play God and create an entirely new kind of species.


Another area where I found transgenic animals can be applied in an interesting way was industrial uses. Scientists at Nexia Biotechnologies in Canada have spliced spider genes into the cells of lactating goats, which resulted in them creating bucketfuls of silk. This silk turns out to be twice as strong as man-made fibers, light and tremendously useful.


Ashleigh–Animals Blog 82

Posted on April 26, 2009 by ashleigh

McDonalds and Burger King are two of the hundreds of international fast food chains who peddle fattening, low-cost food to individuals across the planet.  In 2000, McDonalds and Burger King both committed to moving toward GM-free meat products.  That is, they began to ban the use of GM grain to be used as feed for its thousands of cattle and chickens.  While I believe this is a noble effort, I think one thing need to be examined before we can commend these two business for doing such a wonderful thing.

I think its important to look at the relative advantages of this change.  GM maize has been shown to reduce fertility and deregulate genes in laboratory mice.  So, since these GM genes can not effectively be removed from the feed, it is then transferred to the cattle.  It is then possible for these genes to transfer to the humans who eat them.  However, can we determine if the adverse health effects from these GM-influenced livestock are going to outweigh the already existing major health problems attributed to these foods?  Thousands of dollars is being spent on ensuring these foods have no GM influences, however what about their astronomical fat and sodium contents?  Or McDonald’s french-fries that never break down?  Is it possible for this GM food from McDonalds and Burger King to be a decoy from the horrific health effects of their foods?

Also, we aren’t really focused on how GM feed affects the cows themselves—we are only concerned with how it might affect the people who eat them.  Is it right to feed animals who don’t have a voice for themselves food that might make them more susceptible to untreatable bacterial infection?  I don’t think it is.  I know that if we went into foreign lands claiming a new, and not thoroughly tested, drug was the best thing for people to use, it would be a gross violation of human rights.  While I don’t believe that animals are equivalent to humans, I do think its wrong to feed animals food  on a regular basis that could kill them.

So although I think GM foods need to be tested more before they get piped into the mainstream food collective, its also important that we don’t forget to examine what we’re eating outside of GM foods.

Week 4 - GM Animals (Pooya B) 159

Posted on April 26, 2009 by pooya

We all know that genetically modifying animals has both negative and positive aspects. Opponents may argue that GM destroys diversity, creates harmful substances in the environment, can lead to unintended harm to other organisms, leads to allergies, and has many unknown functions. I think the biggest problem is the loss of diversity and I will explain why. Proponents, on the other hand, say that GM foods and animals lead to the best, most refined, products including animals capable of producing the best foods. My father remembers that when he was a child, nearly one in 10 harvested watermelons would have pinkish-reddish flesh and would be good to eat; the other 9 would have white flesh that was not palatable. Thus proponents would argue that that GM foods and animals increase production and yield. Although there are advantages and disadvantages to each side, we must consider the loss of diversity. Having one type of animal can create a bottleneck effect that selects for only that type of animal. If there arises a situation where other animal forms will be necessary, it will be very unfortunate because we don’t have that species available. Since our population is growing, it is very important to also have the correct amounts and yields of foods from animals so modifying animals is something we need in a global sense. In my search, I encountered an interesting article about genetically engineered cats and dogs being hypoallergenic in that their sweat glands do not produce the noxious toxin that induces allergies in humans. There is only one gene modified in this case and there are no known side effects but the technique is very expensive. The cats range from $5950 to $35000 but may be alternatives for some families. Also, the gene for this modified protein is dominant so that any offspring would also have the hypoallergen. But a very important issue arises – sure, it is great that we have these hypoallergenic animals but what if there arises a time in the future when studies need to be conducted on the normal, non-mutant cat or dog? It will be too late and unfortunate because the diversity in that creature will be gone. It is important to consider what is at stake when considering GM foods and especially animals because if it continues, at some point it will be simply too late to go back to what we had.

GM simplified when using bacteria.

GM simplified when using bacteria.

This dog-lion may look interesting, but its genes for increased har growth are dominant to wild types which can lead to loss of the wild type phenotype in the future.

This dog-lion may look interesting, but its genes for increased har growth are dominant to wild types which can lead to loss of the wild type phenotype in the future.

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