Blizzard Bag C Block Honors Bio Day 1

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.

New York Times article on the first synthetic cell:

BBC article on the discovery of the fist synthetic cell:

The original scientific article in Science :

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. 




27 comments:

  1. Although we have started to discuss the characteristics of life we have not gotten into genetics and cellular biology. Please email if you have any questions on the video or reading.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This entire concept was interesting, to say the least. I don't think the so called "benefits" of genetically modifying cells and organisms is worth the risk. Just take a look at genetically modified food, for example. Nobody wants to eat that, it's unnatural, man-made, and even gets people sick. I guess the advanced vaccine idea wasn't so bad, just as long as the scientists don't let it get out of hand and ultimately leave us with a bigger problem than we started out with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completly agree with you. Genetically modified food can be harmful, however creating cells that can produce oil may have a bigger impact than we may think. Agreeing with Kyle, we would not have to rely on foreign countries which would overall help our economy and potentially help us get out of debt.

      Delete
    2. I agree, I don't think that they should be creating food, that could end badly

      Delete
    3. I agree with you about how many consumers do not like to buy modified foods, and how that could be a turn off for them. I also agree on how the medicine could be a great idea as long as it doesn't get out of hand.

      Delete
    4. I couldn't agree more the concept of eating food that was created in a lab just doesn't seem natural

      Delete
  3. This is pretty cool. Scientists will be able to create things that we have been relying on for years, like gasoline. If we were able to make our own gasoline, then we wouldn't have to rely on foreign countries to give us gas. I think that this is going to help us in a big way in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with Kyle on that, if we have the ability to reduce or even completely stop relying on fossil fuels, we should.

      Delete
  4. I think this has many positive and negative sides to it. It's incredible how one man had the dedication for over 15 years to accomplish his goal of creating this cell, considering his past of almost flunking out of school, deciding not to take his swimming scholarship to move to California and become a surfer. That alone amazes me. However this whole concept is beyond scary. Craig says that by creating this first experiment, it can lead to creating cells that have a purpose in the next few years! These man made cells will be capable of performing actual jobs such as making oil, or flu vaccinations. I believe this can have a major positive impact on our society as long as it does not get out of control.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree with you, this can be very dangerous if this gets out of hand. I do think the vaccine idea is very smart but I don't want it to start ruining our planet since it could start making oil.

      Delete
    2. I agree with how Craig's findings could lead to such break throughs in things needed everyday in our society. It's a scary concept with all of the possible down sides mentioned in the articles and video let alone some that I'm sure we didn't even hear about that other scientists have thought about. Good points!

      Delete
  5. I believe this is a huge turn of what man-kind can do but if it gets out of control, this can be very dangerous to the hard work and progress our society has made already. I am very undecided on if this is good or bad but as I think about it, I think I am more scared and worried more than excited becaue this can change everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is about where I stand on the issue too. I don't think these scientists are thinking of the future and what they could eventually turn into. If we could make sure to monitor it in a safe closed off place it may work. If somehow that does not hold; there is no way to track where they may go or what they are doing. I agree this could potentially do more harm then good.

      Delete
  6. The evolution of science has come with many risks. These findings seem as though they could come with higher benefits but the risks leave many to question how worth it the whole experiment is. The synthetic cells could help produce a greener energy source. However having enough of the source would take up a space as big as San Francisco. The possibilities of harm coming from this large of an area producing oils and gases from the cells could be devistating to a whole area. We have already seen oil spills in places like the Gulf and seen how much harm could come from that. The actual benefits from these new cells would have to be weighed heavily with all of the possible side effects before it becoming any more than it already is. -Bridget

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that all of the benefits really need to be weighed accordingly. I think this is a huge step but I'm not quite sure in which direction. I think if this got into the wrong hands we would have so pretty unimaginable issues on our hands.

      Delete
    2. I also agree with the benefits and I think this is a step in the right direction.

      Delete
  7. I believe that this is a huge step in a positive direction. We can do many great things with these cells. I do have some concerns with everything beginning to be modified too much. Although, I do think that the medicine aspect of this is a great idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you Sam, it would be amazing to create medicines with this breakthrough. What if scientists made contagions though?

      Delete
  8. I think this is pretty scary. This could lead to the creation of so many things or creatures that aren't supposed to ever be on earth. This potentially could screw up the food chain and who knows what further problems this could cause... Could this also lead to artificial intelligence or creating an equal or even more intelligent new race?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ginny. What do you mean when you say it shouldn't be on Earth. There are millions of species yet to be discovered. Scientists could bring one of them out, say it is geneticall modified, and the public would have nothing to do with it. They would shun the creator of this "Synthetic animal." But if that same scientist created an organism, said he discovered it in Africa, and revealed it to the public. They wouldn't care because nothing has changed. It's all about labels, what you call something, nobody cares what the thing actually is. And this can't lead to AI because that's computer learning and stuff. If a created organism were to outsmart man, it would need a couple thousand years to evolve and develope.

      Delete
  9. I think that the concept that Dr. Venter and his team have come up with is beyond amazing. With Dr. Venter almost flunking out of high school then becoming one of the greatest pioneers in science is so cool. With his team creating the "Synthetic Cell" it can lead to so many great things such as gasoline and vaccines.
    -Rian Russo

    ReplyDelete
  10. To be able and modify the genetic code to help the human race is one thing, but creating a whole new one is another. It certainly is a huge step in technology and genetics but there are many concerns. Living things develop and change to their environment; what if the synthetic cell developed into something dangerous that was fatal to the plant or any other living thing on it, including humans. A new genetic code for a bug that could make oil would be great now, but the bug could reproduce or develop into a completely new bug with a new genetic code that could hurt us. Before they start to create and change the rules of nature, they must make sure they know the affects the new synthetic cell could create in the long run.
    -Megan Todd

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think that this is a huge achievement in scientific advancements, but with so many things that can go wrong it worries me. But i think that if the Synthetic cell is used correctly it will make a huge difference in the world.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think it is very this is a very interesting breakthrough, and there are a lot of ways that this could be beneficial. For example we could produce fuels to solve our energy crisis. It would be really cool if there could be a bacteria that could feed off of radioactive waste, or excess chemicals produced by factories. I think the benefits outweigh the risks but regulations must be put into place to keep this from getting out of hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeffrey I couldn't agree with you more. This has potential to be a great thing for the world in the sense we can create things like gasoline. I too believe the benefits outweigh the risks.
      Having regulations is an excellent idea that should be implied to just make sure nothing goes wrong.

      Delete
  13. I strongly believe that we should try not to mess with living things or genetics etc. But, I think as long as we don't let the things we create do more harm than good, then it's worth it. The potential that this cell has is amazing, the possibilities of what this discovery can DO is crazy.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Synthetic, you can just about call everything in our lives synthetic now, nothing is real. It doesn't matter to me what you call it, but these genetically modified organisms could be the best thing to ever happen to us. Think of the possibilities. It could eventually get so good that they make life size beings that can make whatever you want. Hungry? Shove a pile of dirt into your synthetic dog and he'll spit out a cake. Where's the risk in that? Tampering with genetics is highly controversial because it's never been done before, but that doesn't mean that it is wrong. Humans are just too smart to pass up opportunities like this. People are just scared because they don't like change, but change is what keeps us alive. As to who should have a say if the research is continued or not, no one should have a say in it but Craig himself, as this is a free land and he has that right. Would I buy these "fake" products? Of course I would and you would too. If you see peanut butter for 10 cents I'm going to assume anyone in their right mind would buy it. It doesn't matter if it is made from a fake peanut plant or not.

    ReplyDelete