The more we learn about what we are, the more options we will discern about what to try to become. Americans have long honored the "self-made man," but now that we are actually learning enough to be able to remake ourselves into something new, many flinch. Many would apparently rather bumble around with their eyes closed, trusting in tradition, than look around to see what's about to happen. Yes, it is unnerving; yes, it can be scary. After all, there are entirely new mistakes we are now empowered to make for the first time. But it's the beginning of a great new adventure for our knowing species. And it's much more exciting, as well as safer, if we open our eyes.
A group of researchers at OHSU have successfully replaced genetically defective mitochondria in human eggs with normal ones, effectively correcting mutations in the human genome in such a way that the correct versions will be stably heritable.
Scientists are slowly but surely learning to manipulate the development of embryonic stem cells and inducted pluripotent stem cells: Mitinori Saitou and colleagues at Kyoto University have converted such cells into egg cells which were successfully fertilized and yielded normal mouse pups.
The cover of the September 28 issue of Science features a biodegradable integrated circuit: what might the further development of this technology mean for human performance or ongoing sustainability efforts?
For the first time, a Nobel prize was awarded to a researcher who cloned something. Yes, stem cells are all that.
Making our lives better through genetic engineering: although not yet in clinical trials, researchers in New Zealand have created hypoallergenic cows. Well, okay, cows that produce hypoallergenic milk — I don't think they've tested the cows themselves for their allergic potential.
NPR recently completed a 4-part series on the $1000 genome.
Better for impoverished people to die from malnourishment than to allow them access to life-saving GMOs: there was recently a brouhaha in China about giving Golden Rice to a handful of children.
An article in The New York TImes describes a recent advance in tissue engineering of the sort we've talked about in class. In this case a man's cancerous esophagus was removed and replaced with a plastic copy seeded with stem cells harvested from his own bone marrow. Two more articles are slated to follow.
Legal scholars are increasingly looking at the implications of robots, prosthetics, and the like on the application and evolution of the law. Disability-compensating and human enhancement technologies promise to raise some challenging questions.
It's here. It's real. Telekinesis.
A study begun in 1987 looking at the effects of calorie restriction on rhesus monkeys has shown no effect on average longevity, to the surprise (and consternation) of many researchers in the field.
Warm clothes. Eyeglasses. Antibiotics. Genetically-modified foods. Designer babies. Artificial life. Mankind has been interfering with natural selection pretty much since the moment we appeared on this planet. But with the advent of scientific investigation and our burgeoning understanding of the genetics, biochemistry, and physiology of living things, our ability to interfere with and purposefully channel the course of evolutionary change is exploding. We will be increasingly able to change living things to suit our own whims, but is this a good idea? Can we plan for unplanned consequences? Will these new technologies make life better for all of us, or simply accelerate our inevitable extinction?
In this course we will look at these and related questions from molecular biological, evolutionary, and ethical perspectives and students will present the results of their own research into the literature in both papers and oral presentations. Extensive student participation will be an absolute requirement of the course. This course fulfills the writing intensive requirement for the biology major.
Classes will be held in Room 301, Priscilla Payne Hurd Academic Complex
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 8:55 am to 9:45 am
Only two (new) books are required for this course, and should be available in the bookstore:
Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution by Ronald Bailey
Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences (5th edition) by Victoria E. McMillan
You will also want to have a good style book, such as The Bedford Handbook (whatever edition you have from WRIT100 is fine).