“Think of it like the stock market,” he said [Simon Ho]. Look at the hourly or daily fluctuations of Standard & Poor’s 500 index, and it will appear wildly unstable, swinging this way and that. Zoom out, however, and the market appears much more stable as the daily shifts start to average out. In the same way, the forces of natural selection weed out the less advantageous and more deleterious mutations over time.”
Read the article titled: Evolution Runs Faster on Short Time Scales (Quanta Magazine, March 14, 2017)
Although the word biotechnology sounds new and contemporary, we’ve been tweaking genes–the stuff of life–for millennia:
“Early people began altering communities of flora and fauna for their own benefit through means such as fire-stick farming and forest gardening very early. Exact dates are hard to determine, as people collected and ate seeds before domesticating them, and plant characteristics may have changed during this period without human selection. An example is the semi-tough rachis and larger seeds of cereals from just after the Younger Dryas (about 9,500 BC) in the early Holocene in the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent. Monophyletic characteristics were attained without any human intervention, implying that apparent domestication of the cereal rachis could have occurred quite naturally.
Agriculture began independently in different parts of the globe, and included a diverse range of taxa. At least 11 separate regions of the Old and New World were involved as independent centers of origin. Some of the earliest known domestications were of animals. Pigs were domesticated in Mesopotamia around 13,000 BC. Sheep were domesticated in Mesopotamia between 11,000 and 9,000 BC. Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan around 8,500 BC. Camels were domesticated late, perhaps around 3,000 BC.”–Via
Nowadays, the stuff that we can do with genes would seem like wizardry to ancient Mesopotamians. We can use the immune system of bacteria to edit the human genome. With current techniques, insulin can be made by embedding human genetic code in the genome of Escherichia coli. In other words, if the plow, the scythe, and slashing and burning were the tools that made it possible for the ancients to manipulate genes, the micropipette, the electrophoresis chamber, and the agarose gel are new the hardware.
AP and Honor (10th Grade) students:
Write a brief reflection–of no more than 150 words–of your Biotech Experience (March 6–10, 2017) on the comment section below. This being a blog, you can add pictures, videos, and/or hyperlinks to your comment. Remember that your experience had to be documented with pictures (a minimum of 5). Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The total value of this assignment is 50 points. Due date: March 31, 2017.
I saw Gattaca for the first time during the late 90’s. The Human Genome Project was all over the news. Bitch & Tubthumping received–unfortunately–a lot of radio-play; social media did not exist; and the Internet was in its infancy (People had to wait over 30 minutes to download a song). I was in my senior year, and it was a great time for scifi–The Matrix was blowing people’s minds as well. Like a lot of good science fiction, Gattaca points its finger to the present; the film mirrors much of the current zeitgeist. A lot has happened since 1997, but Niccol’s vision still speaks volumes about current research and bioethics; it does so poetically and politically.
An essay/review will be assigned–it will be submitted to a Turn it in assignment. Meanwhile, I want you to think about the film. I’ve listed quotes, statements, and ideas for that purpose. Your task will be to write a comment–of no more than 150 words–based on at least 3 elements from the list:
“A genetic quotient second to none”.
“Genoism is called”.
Research the concepts: Social Darwinism, Eugenics, and Dystopia.
“Borrowed ladder” and “de-gene-erate”.
“This guy’s helix tucked under your arm” — aligned to Chapter 13: The Molecular Basis of Inheritance.
“Are you color blind too, Vincent” — aligned to Chapter 12: The Chromosomal Basis of Inheritance.
“You could conceive naturally 1,000 times and never get such a result” — aligned to Chapter 12: The Chromosomal Basis of Inheritance.
The listed concepts, quotes, and ideas can serve as the basis for your work, but keep in mind that they are suggestions. Your post has to be written in the comment section of this blog, and it counts as a comment for your semester-long project. Clicking the hyperlinks is encouraged. The guidelines for this assignment are the same ones that we follow for all comments. You can re-visit the rubric at Edline. This is classwork; it must be done individually, and it has a value of 15 points.