Blizzard Bag Lesson Plan 1:
The First Synthetic Cell
This year in Biology we have covered the characteristics of what make a living organism. Our definition of what it means to be living might start to change. Recently Craig Venter and his team of researchers have created the first synthetic cell. This bacterium uses the membrane, cytoplasm, and organelles of naturally occurring bacteria but its genome has been completely replaced with an artificial chromosome designed by the scientists. Why do this? Several papers and magazines have looked into this research and that question. Today I would like you to investigate this discovery and discuss its potential and possible consequences.
Step1: Watch this video 60 minutes produced about Craig Venter and his research
If the link doesn’t work, Google “Craig Venter 60 Minutes” and you should be able to easily find it.
Step 2: Read ONE of the following articles on the first synthetic cell.
A New York Times article on the first synthetic cell:
A BBC article on the discovery of the fist synthetic cell:
The original scientific article in Science :
A New York Times article focusing Craig Venter
Step 3: Post a short one or two paragraph reflection on the video and article in the comment section below this blog post. You might want to discuss or try to answer one of the following questions in your post.
- Do you think the benefits of this technology are worth the risks?
- Who, if anyone, should decide if this research and technology should continue?
- What rules or regulations would you put into place to protect the environment? Should there be any?
- What other “bugs” (bacteria) can you imagine creating to solve a modern day problem?
- Are there any other potential problems with this technology you can think of not mentioned in the video or articles?
- Do you think this bacterium should truly be called synthetic? Why or why not?
- Would you as a consumer use products made from or using these organisms? Why or why not?
Step 4: Respond to at least one of the posts by your classmates. You can ask a question or make a follow-up statement. Be polite in your discussion and respect everyone’s opinions even if you are in disagreement.
Grading: This lesson will be graded as a classwork assignment. 50 points will be awarded for your original reflection, and another 50 points for your response to your classmates post.