Biotechnology and Art By John MadrigalMicrobiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics June 6,2012 Honors 177 Professor Victoria Vesna
A Culture DividedMon, 04/09/2012My name is John Madrigal. I am a senior majoring in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics(MIMG). It’s unclear what I’ll be doing after graduation, but I am optimistic of my future to become adoctor will not be impeded. Growing up I always had a knack for the culture of science. It began byhaving a good understanding of mathematics and later found its way to biology, chemistry, and physics.I did dabble in the art field by learning the trumpet, but later grew out of it as high school went along. Itwas encouraged when I was younger to try to broaden my horizons, to try to feel out what I was good atand where I can potentially develop a career. It wasn’t until college where I was heavily encouraged bymy educational institution to determine a specialty by choosing a major. In the Two Cultures lecture,the separation of humanities and science placed educational institutions in possessing a hand in thisproblem. At UCLA, there is a distinction between humanities and science through the separation ofNorth and South campus. The architecture between the two parts of UCLA are different and there arestereotypes behind being a part of North or South campus. There were even T-shirts being made toemphasize the fact that the two are different.It is encouraging that this gap between humanities and science is starting to come closer, shown by thecreation of this class. The rapid development of technology, especially the internet, has created amassive growth of information to be shared which encourages collaboration. Pop culture has been acenter for many of these collaborations. These range from different fashion designers coming togetherand making stunning pieces of work to different recording artists and producers making mash ups withnew sounds. In the lecture we saw last week, scientist and artist are attempting to bridge the gap andbring art and science back together to the days of Leonardo Di Vinci. Hopefully in the near future, theinternet helps play a role in the closing of the gap and maybe one day have the term science and artbecome synonymous once again.
My Favorite Part of the MorningSun, 04/15/2012Most morning, before I leave for school, I have breakfast and drink a full glass of orange juice. Anessential part of my morning ritual, I never really thought about where this particular drink came from,and what had it gone through from beginning to its final destination to me.Orange juice begins at orange groves. The major distributors of oranges are the United States and Brazil.In the United States, Florida and California are the leading states for growing oranges for the nation.Large plantations are devoted to cultivating oranges and harvested seasonally. They are picked fromthese plantations where they are sent to extraction plants where the juice is collected, pasteurized andsent for distribution. There are two types of orange juice, fresh and concentrated. Concentrated, which Iwas unfamiliar of, is when the juice is extracted and the water is taken out from it, making itconcentrated. When it goes into the distribution process, water is put back in and the juice is thendrunk.Picture: Orange Juice ProcessOrange juice is inflicted with a disease that has no known cure at the moment called Huanglongbing.Known as the Yellow Dragon Disease or HLB, is a bacterial infection carried by psyllid which causes adisease that makes oranges turn green, called greening. It may seem like a early orange fruit, but it is adisease that can kill the entire tree all together. Due to this bacterium, there have been many differentmeasures to combat the disease including the use of pesticides and research in genetic engineering.Research includes sequencing of genomes of different citrus trees and the bacteria itself to try anddevelop a resistance to fight HLB. Attempts at cross breeding different citrus fruits that have developed
some form of resistance are being tested to find a potential cure. Even the use of guava leaves havebeen shown to provide some type of cure, but research has not been fruitful in helping oranges.Picture: "Greening" of OrangesThe future in the orange industry holds the potential of biotechnology intervening to sustain theproduction similarly to papaya. HLB is a crippling disease that has found no cure and seems thatbiotechnology will have a stake in finding that cure. Whether or not it occurs today, or tomorrow, if thestate of the orange industry follows a continuing decline, it will be important to develop transgenicoranges whether we want to have them or not. Some research has been developed to create atransgenic orange called blood oranges which is not for HLB, but for heart health benefits to helpprevent heart attack and stroke.Picture: Not a grapefruit, but blood oranges.
Luckily I have an orange tree in my backyard, so if at any point I do feel uncomfortable with GMO oforanges, I have a backup.References:http://www.newsytype.com/3535-citrus-greening-disease-attacks-florida-orange-groves/http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9138762/Genetically-modified-blood-oranges-developed-by-scientists.htmlhttp://www.thegrower.com/news/citrus-greening/Genetically-modified-orange-trees-set-for-Florida-field-trials-137441598.htmlhttp://www.floridasnatural.com/juices/not-from-concentratehttp://www.reuters.com/article/2010/12/03/us-gmo-oranges-idUSTRE6B24ZE20101203
Cows Are a Man’s Best Friend (+Strange Culture)Sun, 04/22/2012I am apologetic to any vegetarians and vegans, but I enjoy eating meat, specifically steak. I do not get toeat steak that often, but when I do, I try and savor the experience as much as I can. In high school, Iremember my English class read an excerpt from “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair, which described theprocess of how meat was packaged. After reading it, I was sick to my stomach the entire day, not beingable to eat a thing the entire day, let alone meat. However, the next day I was perfectly fine, back to mymeat eating ways.When it came to write this blog, it reminded me of the way carnivores such as myself view meat. Beforereading the excerpt my relationship toward a cow was strictly food based. I knew it through slices ofsteak and ground beef cheeseburger, not a face. This is probably due to not seeing cows on an everydaybases and connecting the meat I eat to a face. After I had read the excerpt, I became disgusted, mostlyof the in depth description Sinclair used to how cows were being treated and eventually packaged. Myview that day changed from apathy to empathy toward the cow as if it were my own dog.
The relationship I have with a dog is completely different than my relationship with a cow. I view dogs ascompanions and have emotional feelings toward. With a cow however, I have little emotionalconnection and view as a food source. In some cultures it is acceptable to eat dogs and in others it isunacceptable to eat cows. The view we have for animals is not universal and no definitive line can bedrawn on how to treat a certain species of animal. In my case, I think it is fine to prepare cows as food,but to treat dogs more sympathetically.This translates to transgenic animals, specifically cows, where I have little/no problems with using theseanimals for genetic engineering. Some benefits have come from research such as transgenic cows havingthe ability to produce human antibodies at the expense of the cows antibodies. More recent studieshave shown scientist to develop cows that have the ability to produce human milk and others show theability to produce therapeutic proteins from cow milk.
The movie Strange Culture was fascinating because what we would consider as art science was seen bythe government as bioterrorism. It seemed that the people prosecuting Kurtz are unaware of the abilityfor an artist to express his project using biotechnology. They found it suspicious for an artist to possesssuch technology and the only logical reason they could come up with is for Kurtz to have ulteriormotives and use it as bioterrorism. It’s remarkable how the times have changed from Da Vinci where artand science can be found in the same room and hopefully this can change back to the merging of art andscienceReferences:http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/01/17/BU101956.DTLhttp://www.dailypaul.com/161035/transgenics-genetically-modified-cows-produce-human-milkhttp://www.cyberspaceag.com/farmanimals/beefcattle/beefhistory.htmhttp://www.pegasus.wur.nl/wever.internet/applications/SSG_PegasusViewer/GetImage.aspx?ID=73http://www.capitalcentury.com/1906.html
Live ForeverSun, 05/06/2012When watching the video lectures, I was really interested in the process of preserving flesh. I first lookedto the Egyptians and mummification. The reason they preserved the body of humans and pets, is theybelieved that if the body were to survive so would there soul to live on in the afterlife. The processincluded dehydration, removal of organs (intestine, stomach, brain, etc.), cleaning, and wrapping withcloth. This ritual is one of the earliest forms of preservation, but not used as a learning purpose as it ismost commonly used today.Picture: Water is replaced by acetone and then acetone is replaced by a plastic solvent like silicon toembed the plastic within the organ (forced impregnation).Fast forward to 1977 with the invention of plastination by Gunther von Hagens. Hagens was inspiredwhen he worked as an anatomy assistant and wondered of using polymers on the inside of organs and
muscle instead of the outside which was usually the case. Esentially, plastination is process ofpreserving bodies by replacing the water and fat that is naturally in them with plastic. Commonpolymers used today are silicon, epoxy, and polyester-copolymer. Hagens ran with the idea ofplastination and created the Body’s World Exhibit which travels all around the world with differentfocuses such as the heart exhibit or the animal exhibit. There have been similar body exhibits such asBodies Revealed which travels around in the US.Link: http://youtu.be/sSViLS4-kaIIt was intriguing to discover that the cadavers being exhibited were real people, not statues. People whodonate their body for the use of science are displayed in these exhibits in hopes that they can educatepeople beyond their lifetime. I found it breathtaking to actually have someone immortalized in this artform and to have the human experience celebrated with the invention of plastination. I was alsointerested in the different context preservation has from Egyptians to now. Egyptians wished to live inthe afterlife by preserving their bodies and allowing their soul to live on. With the Body’s World exhibit,these people, whether we know their name or not, are able to live forever through inspiration andlearning.References:http://www.historylink101.net/egypt_1/religion_mummification_history.htmhttp://www.bodyworlds.com/en/exhibitions/current_exhibitions.htmlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastinationhttp://www.dailymotion.com/video/xbstu0_newca-com-body-worlds-plastination_techhttp://www.kingtutone.com/mummies/mummification/http://www.bodiesrevealed.com/
First BloodMon, 05/14/2012In the lectures we viewed this week I was intrigued about Kathy High’s Vampire Study Group. Notbecause of the emergence of the vampire culture, but of the mystic property that our blood holds. Fromgeneral knowledge, we know that our blood is powerful. It is a property that gives us life and that a pintof blood can save 3 lives when we donate it to the Red Cross. There is also a saying that blood is thickerthan water and through history, some families have tried to keep their blood “pure” through inbreeding.When High was exhibiting Blood Wars, it gave blood another dimension to the many tropes it alreadyhas. In our blood we have Red and White blood cells. Red blood cells help transport the oxygen neededout to the body and export out carbon dioxide out of the body. White blood cells are the sentinels thatguard the body from infection, or our immune system. What Kathy has done has pitted these soldiers ofour body against one another and tried to determine who has the greatest army.Picture: Macrophage (orange) surrounded by bacteria (blue) fighting off infectionI was intrigued by this concept because I took a quarter of immunology and never really thought of anart exhibit that would have two people battle each other’s immune system. This was a neat exhibit toshow in a small scale of the properties of blood has on not just supporting life, but for fighting for it. Weknow of this small scale experiment through tissue transplantation. When organ donors are chosen,genetic similarities are important in order to have a successful transplantation. If this is not found, theimmune system can amount an attack on that newly acquired organ and reject it altogether.
Link to video if not working still: http://vimeo.com/20421154It was great that she challenged some of the ideas blood has gained over the years such as pure bloods,blood letting, and blue bloods, and how this life source can attack each other when not compatible.Above is a video of 2 combatants that were put in an arena where eventually the red wins out. Eachblood had a nice back story to engage the audience in the imaginative spectacle of two armies battleseach other. It is a bit confusing at first, but you can see that some green ones begin to disappear and redones gain a yellowish color representing engulfment. What was neat was after the tournament wasfinished, the winner would receive a blood trophy at the end to signify the dominant blood.References:http://vampirestudygroup.com/bloodwars/www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/11/133655669/my-neutrophils-can-kick-yo...">http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/02/11/133655669/my-neutrophils-can-...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transplant_rejectionwww.fi.edu/learn/heart/blood/white.html">http://www.fi.edu/learn/heart/blood/white.htmlwww.fi.edu/learn/heart/blood/red.html">http://www.fi.edu/learn/heart/blood/red.html
DNA ComputingSun, 05/20/2012Alan Turing is known to be the father of computer science. During WWII he was an integral player incryptology and developing ways to send as well as intercept messages during the war. In the modernday, computers have evolved in smaller size and speed since Turing’s day and always seems to bechanging with every passing moment. Currently, technology follows a trend known as Moore’s Law. Itstates that every 18 months the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuitdoubles. This represents an exponential growth curve on the way computers evolve and is indicative ofhow technology changes. Those who know of this law know that eventually, Moore’s Law will come to ahalt because the limitations of putting transistors on a circuit are limited by silicon, the material we useto develop these circuits. Eventually we will reach a limit and can’t put anymore transistors.The future that researchers are looking into is DNA computing. DNA computing is the use of DNA insteadof silicon chips to solve complex mathematical problems. Researchers believe that DNA computing willbe the future of computers and will be the technology that helps get past Moore’s Law. There are manyadvantages to DNA computing over our current mode that make it an ideal next step to developingcomputers; size (much smaller), large supply (cheap), parallel processing (vs. linear in moderncomputers). One researcher discovered that DNA can solve a complex math problem known asHamiltonian Path Problem with what they called a bacterial computer.
Picture: Representation of Hamiltonian Path Problem using DNA computingOur project, at its current infancy, deals with the development of these bacterial/cellular computers andthe celebration of Alan Turing and cryptology. The development of these DNA computers will allow thestorage of a large amount of information that hasn’t been achieved before by our current computers.We will be able to store all the information in the world with the use of only 1 pound of DNA. Theproject we propose deals with the ability to store information as DNA in cells. It would be a new way ofsending coded messages to people and we felt using a military motif like Turing was in to establish thisidea. Common techniques such as PCR and DNA sequencing will be the way to extract the information.
Picture: The Bombe, the computer tool made of vacuum tubes that helped cryptologist decipherGerman intelligence.When dealing with this new concept, it brought up controversial issues of how this new technologycould be used. We are in the development of bio-computers, living organisms that are able to solvecomplex problems. In a sense, cells already do this by having gene regulation, but now we will use thisconcept to solve mathematical problems that can’t be solved by our current computing power. Anastonishing idea, and to think that our possible future is not metallic robots, but beings formed by DNAcomputers. In addition, we bring to the table the manipulation of humans by being able to inject theseonto people. It relates to the development of artificial intelligence with these DNA computers andhaving them integrated to a person. Many issues about this project emerge and we hope that we canbring these to light to discuss with the public.Referenceshttp://computer.howstuffworks.com/dna-computer.htmhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moores_lawhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_computinghttp://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/21/science/21DNA.htmlhttp://www.jbioleng.org/content/pdf/1754-1611-3-11.pdf
ConclusionLearning about Biotechnology and Art was a different experience. Being a science major, our intellect ismeasured by the amount one is able to replicate ideas the professor has instructed you to learn. Thisclass went a different approach and measure my intellect based on creativity, a process that wasfrightening at first, but settled as a fun and unique experience. The nature of the course being sciencerelated helped ease me into this process and expand on ideas I never thought I can create. The midterm(not published) challenged not only my creativity, but my science knowledge, and how I can put thosetwo together to create a piece that can manifest into reality. Before entering this class, I couldn’tbelieve science and art can exist together in a room, but now leaving this class, I can’t think of any otherway.