Archive for the ‘readings’ Category

Week 5 – Practice 3: Animals (28th May)

  • Tetrahymena thermophilia
  • Marta de Menezes and Maria Manuela Lopes, Tetrahymena detailed2.
  • Eduardo Kac, “GPF Bunny” in Leonardo, vol. 36, no. 2, 2003. {Alba, the rabbit that fluoresces green in blue light, is the best known work of transgenic art in the world – even though only a few people have seen her.
  • Amy Youngs, Creating, Culling and Caring, essay in The Aesthetics of Care? conference proceedings published by SymbioticA, School of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, Aug. 2002
  • Daniel A. Pijnappels, Serge Gregoire, and Sean M. Wu, The integrative aspects of cardiac physiology and their implications for cell-based therapy, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Issue: Analysis of Cardiac Development, 2010.

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Week 4 – Practice 2 : Insects and Plants ( 21st May)

Visiting speaker: Adam Zaretsky

  • Marta De Menezes, “The Artificial Natural: Manipulating Butterfly Wing Patterns for Artistic Purposes” in Leonardo, vol. 36, no. 1, 2003. {De Menezes describes how she changes butterfly wing patterns by manipulating the chemical micro-environments of crysalises. She directs gene expression but does not affect the genes themselves.
  • Natraj Krishnan, Doris Kretzschmar, Kuntol Rakshit, Eileen Chow, and

Jadwiga M. Giebultowicz. The circadian clock gene period extends healthspan in aging Drosophila melanogaster, Aging (Albany NY). 2009 November; 1(11): 937–948.Published online 2009 November 19. PMCID: PMC2815745.

  • PATRI´CIA BELDADE, VERNON FRENCH, ANDPAUL MARTIN BRAKEFIELD. Developmental and Genetic Mechanisms for Evolutionary Diversification of Serial Repeats:Eyespot Size in Bicyclus anynana Butterflies. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL ZOOLOGY (MOL DEV EVOL) 310B:191–201 (2008)
  • Patricia Beldade, Paul M. Brakefield & Anthony D. Long. Contribution of Distal-less to quantitative variation in butterfly eyespots. NATURE |VOL 415 | 17 JANUARY 2002.
  • Maris Kuningas, Simon P. Mooijaart, Diana van Heemst, Bas J. Zwaan, P. Eline Slagboo and Rudi G. J. Westendorp. Genes encoding longevity: from model organisms to humans. 2008 The Authors Journal compilation © Blackwell Publishing Ltd/Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
  • Oliver Kunkel, see website.
  • Philip Ross, see website.
  • George Gessert, see links.

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Some reflections on „Playing God in Frankenstein’s Footsteps: Synthetic biology and the meaning of life.“ by Henk van den Belt

Synthetic biology facilitates the design, construction and change of biological systems by synthesizing DNA and inserting it into host cells whose genomes have been removed. It is considered an engineering discipline that requires the extensive use of information technology. As discussed in this essay, some approaches within synthetic biology make it possible for the material world to be manipulated in the same way computer scientists manipulate information.

Drew Endy, a researcher at Stanford, together with institutes at MIT and Harvard are developing a system of building blocks, “BioBricks”, pieces of DNA, that can be used like Legos. He is not only following an open-source path, he also uses the language of a software designer to describe the procedure: the combination of laptop and raw chemicals (information and material) makes it possible to “compile” genetical material. So easy. The only difficult thing in the process seems to be that you have to mail-order the BioBricks, as they are stored in a freezer at MIT.

Craig Venter, researcher and entrepreneur, uses a similar language. But he brings in venture capital for his project and thus operates in a less open way. His goals are clearly economical. In his TED talk in 2008 he even goes so far as claiming to wipe-out the petrochemical industry with his microbes that shall produce fuel out of CO2 in a large scale. New variations and recombinations of genes can be designed in his software that is not so different from a 3D-program. All that needs to be done after the synthesis is to “boot-up” the cell to see if it is runnable. After the same talk he manages to get out of every critical question with a joke. The answer, that he is not playing, to the question if he is playing god was just one of them. Another one referred to the more critical European position when it comes to genetically modified food: Europeans are soon going to be afraid that their food might contain DNA.

Does the lightness of a software designer’s mind influence the attitude of synthetic biologists – a mind that can always use the undo button? Or does this lightness only show up in public presentations of the new technology? And yes, Frankenstein went too far in using his mastery of creating a human being, but if entrepreneurs like Venter stay within the limits of microbial life, what impact will the possible large size of such enterprises have on the wider biological and ecological systems, e.g. on non-synthesized organisms, food-chains and complex ecosystems? Will we use it as an easy solution to complex problems that will bring quick results, something so important in democracies, and create even larger problems in a longer term? What new accidents may come together with this new technology that helps mass-produce experimental GMOs?

How can the effects of GMOs in highly diverse environments ever be traced back? How can persons or corporations ever be held liable for possible genetic damages or for unbalancing ecosystems caused by the proliferation of their organisms even though they can profit from the negative rights of their patents beforehand?

Might this be the reason why even atheists accuse biologist of playing god? Not because they see the threat to a deified nature but because they lack an easy expression to explain how incomprehensible natural processes are in their multi-relational complexity for simple human beings. Especially for those who still think of mainly maximizing profit.

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  • Van der Zee et all, Distinct Functions of the Tribolium zerknu¨ llt. Genes in Serosa Specification and Dorsal Closure, 2005. 
  • Charles Darwin, Origin of Species, Chapter IV, “Natural Selection”,
  • Diamond, Jared; “Guns, Germs and Steel”, Chapter 9 – Zebras, Unhappy Marriages, and the Anna Karenina principle; Norton Books, 1999.
  • Diamond, Jared; “Colapse”, Chapter 2 – Twilight at Easter; Penguin Books, 2005.
  • Diamond, Jared; “The Third Chimpanzee”, Chapter 2 – The Great Leap Forward; Harper Perennial, 2006.
  • G. Gessert, “Breeding For Wildness” A meditation on the art of plant breeding. The Aesthetics of Care?, Oron Catts, ed. 2002. Revised for second edition, 2004.
  • Philip Ross, see website.
  • Jun Takita, see website.
  • Amy Youngs, see website.

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second week redings:

  • Joe Davis, Dana Boyd, Hunter O’Reilly, and Marek Wieczorek, “Art and Genetics?” in Encyclopedia of the Human Genome (Macmillan, 2003.) {A summary of art and genetics, with an excellent presentation of Davis’s work.

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readings first week.

  • Jens Hauser, ed. «L’Art Biotech », Catalog. (Le Lieu Unique, Nantes, France, 2003). {Catalog to the first show of biotechnological art that consisted predominately of living work. This catalog has 31 pages of illustrations, and essays by Jens Hauser, Vilem Flusser, Symbiotica, Eduardo Kac, George Gessert, Marion Laval-Jeantet, Joe Davis, Marta de Menezes, Yves Michaud, and Richard Hoppe-Sailer. 94 pp. In French. PDf.
  • Jens Hauser, Patch Magasine, Les biotechnologies comme medialité, p53-57, Février 2009. Pdf.
  • Antonio Cerveira Pinto, « Metamorfosis », The Post Contemporary Condition, MEIAC, Spain, 2005.
  • Dmitry Bulatov ed., “Evolution Haute Couture” A Techno-biological Artwork, 2009 NCCA  Kaliningrad, Russia.
  • Melentie Pandilovski (2008), “Art in the Biotech Era”, introduction, Experimental Art Foundation Inc.  Pdf.
  • Eduardo Kac, “Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond”. 2006. Introduction, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. {Summary: Texts by Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey, Lori Andrews, Bernard Andrieu, Brandon Ballengée, Louis Bec, Oliver Botar, Oron Catts/Ionat Zurr, Joe Davis, Richard Doyle, Vilem Flusser, Ronald J. Gedrim, George Gessert, Natalie Jeremijenko, Eduardo Kac, David Kremers, Marion Laval-Jeantet and Benoit Mangin, Dominique Lestel, Marta Menezes, Yves Michaud Gunalan Nadarajan, Dorothy Nelkin, Paul Perry, Marc Quinn, Barbara Stafford, Eugene Thacker, Regina Trinidade, Paul Vanouse, Cary Wolfe, Adam Zaretsky.} PDF.

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