Author Topic: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code  (Read 1187 times)

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Offline Inactive_1

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Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« on: December 09, 2008, 02:12:51 PM »
"Synthetic biologist Drew Endy discusses the exponential growth in the field of bioengineering.

He discusses how only recently have scientists been able to  synthesize strands of DNA as a computer engineer would write code.

"It's the coolest, most impressive/scary technology I've encountered," says Endy."


Video - Here

Offline JTFC

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Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2008, 03:54:05 PM »
But what if you don't like the smell of bananas?   :D

Seriously, though, the potential for this technology is incredible.  Create an organism that eats dust and releases a fragrance of your choice.  In one move you've eliminated the housekeeping job of dusting your house and the need for Glade PlugIns.  With hunger a problem worldwide, a new form of gut bacteria that could break down previously indigestible materials could open up whole new food sources.  Or, even better, a new organism that allows humans to process sunlight for energy, thus limiting or eliminating the need for external food.  Of course, the down side is that those so inclined could also create an organism that would destroy a human, or alter brain chemistry to make them submissive.  So I would agree with that person when he says it is both amazing and scary.
"...if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing."  Michel Foucault

Offline Cycle4Fun

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Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2008, 05:04:14 PM »
JTFC,

Please take a general biology class and a microbiology class.

1.  Dust Eating Bacteria:  Dust comes from many sources with the majority coming from skin cells.  Think about that for a second.

2.  Digesting other foods takes more than just bacteria to get the required nutrients

3.  Ask yourself why animals never photosynthesize.  Could it possibly be because it is such an inefficient process to meet the energy requirements of the moving animal?

Education takes effort!
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Offline WellManicuredMan

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Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2008, 07:14:50 PM »
1.  Dust Eating Bacteria:  Dust comes from many sources with the majority coming from skin cells.  Think about that for a second.

Flesh-eating bacteria?

Truly, there are things we're better off not doing.

Offline JTFC

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Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2008, 08:12:28 PM »
Please take a general biology class and a microbiology class.
I have, thanks.  And one or three on genetics, chemistry, zoology, etc.

Quote
1.  Dust Eating Bacteria:  Dust comes from many sources with the majority coming from skin cells.  Think about that for a second.
Skin cells, plant cells, dirt, you name it.  What it all is, is raw materials.  Break it down and you have proteins and minerals.  Both of which can be used by an organism for fuel and growth. Take that organism and design it in a way to use those specific minerals and proteins, and return a specific chemically-based odor.  So, design a microorganism that has multiple digestive systems, one main system, one aimed at proteins and one aimed at minerals.  The main system divides the the raw material into proteins and minerals, then the other two breaks down their specific target nutrient accordingly, converting them into chemical odor.  Does this exist now?  No.  But that's the whole point, once we have a catalog of building blocks, the potential for creating something like this is well within the realm of possibility.

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2.  Digesting other foods takes more than just bacteria to get the required nutrients

Currently, yes.  But being able to design organisms to specifications can change that.  Again, technology like this can allow us to move far beyond what is known today.  And it doesn't have to be just one organism, either.  There could be one organism that breaks down a substance in one way, and two other organisms that then break those resultant components into easily digestible material.  The point is, being able to design new organisms removes the dependency on existing systems and allows us to experiment in directions that we never would have thought before.

Quote
3.  Ask yourself why animals never photosynthesize.  Could it possibly be because it is such an inefficient process to meet the energy requirements of the moving animal?

So what if it is inefficient?  If it is SUPPLEMENTAL to our existing energy systems, then it is beneficial as it would reduce the amount of traditional energy consumption needed.  And who's to say that it would be inefficient?  Sure, in the current method used in plants, it would be.  But who's to say that we have to restrict ourselves to just that methodology?  Maybe there are alternative methods that could be tapped into that would yield higher energy results.  Again, the point is, the POTENTIAL is there, and in a form that we have never been able to attempt before.

Quote
Education takes effort!
Yes, it does.  But vision and thinking outside the box takes far more effort.  My statements were not to say that current organisms could do any of that, but through building our own organisms, testing them, refining them, etc., all of these concepts are possible, once we remove the assumptions that we have to restrict these organisms to that which already exists.
"...if you are not like everybody else, then you are abnormal, if you are abnormal , then you are sick. These three categories, not being like everybody else, not being normal and being sick are in fact very different but have been reduced to the same thing."  Michel Foucault

Offline Zephyr

Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2008, 03:22:16 AM »
Yes, it does.  But vision and thinking outside the box takes far more effort.  My statements were not to say that current organisms could do any of that, but through building our own organisms, testing them, refining them, etc., all of these concepts are possible, once we remove the assumptions that we have to restrict these organisms to that which already exists.

As long as these organisms are made of DNA, and are given the freedom to replicate, you open up the possibility of evolution. A bad mutation here, or a good mutation there. Suddenly the dust-eating bacteria become a phage that kills millions of unsuspecting homeowners over the course of a few months. Same goes for the gut bacteria. What if they kill off a native population of bacteria within the body that currently assists in the digestion of other current food sources? Or what if they thrive off of a nutrient that your body needs, forcing you to consume more of it to meet daily requirements?

I can see applications for gene therapy to assist organ transplantation, repair or remove chunks of DNA that cause crippling illnesses and so forth, but once the virus has done its job, it would probably be removed from the body, or would be a virus easily destroyed by the body. Each strain would probably be individually engineered for the person in which it would be used, and it wouldn't be given the chance to grow exponentially for extended use.

The problem with engineering organic machines for an extended purpose is that they'll outgrow their purpose eventually due to random mutation, with a potential for dire consequences.
I can understand making a batch of dust eating bacteria to clean up the house, then Lysol-ing the buggers, but then why'd we go and make them in the first place, when buying a Swiffer brush is cheaper, faster, and less of a hassle and risk? Some things are just overcomplicated and unnecessary.
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Offline xphobe

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Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2008, 06:42:40 PM »
Flesh-eating bacteria?

Truly, there are things we're better off not doing.

I remember thinking that back when I read about these scientists who were all excited that they had successfully inserted ebola genes into the genome of a cold virus.  Oh yeah, there's a bright idea right there...
I stopped believing for a little while this morning. Journey is gonna be so pissed when they find out...

Offline 604ipe

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Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2008, 07:34:22 AM »
Be careful.

Once the genie is out of the lamp you can't put him back in.

Offline Omega

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Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2009, 11:03:36 AM »
Be careful.

Once the genie is out of the lamp you can't put him back in.

that is no problem. Many millions years of evolution made enough of terrible nasties that we are on long way to surpass that.

Unless you deliberately make some super advanced disease, evolutionary mutations do not pose any threat.
and even if you work on specific disease it will not surpass ones that exist already.

Offline Deus ex Machina

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Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2009, 11:05:59 AM »
I wouldn't bank on it. As I understand it, there is a risk that our success at eradicating all sorts of 'nasties' will result in our descendants having a deficient immune system. That would suggest that there's a lower "barrier to entry" to some malign mutation of a currently inoffensive virus or bacterium doing serious damage later on down the line.
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Offline rickymooston

Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2009, 04:18:30 PM »
But what if you don't like the smell of bananas?   :D

Seriously, though, the potential for this technology is incredible.  Create an organism that eats dust and releases a fragrance of your choice.  In one move you've eliminated the housekeeping job of dusting your house and the need for Glade PlugIns.  With hunger a problem worldwide, a new form of gut bacteria that could break down previously indigestible materials could open up whole new food sources.  Or, even better, a new organism that allows humans to process sunlight for energy, thus limiting or eliminating the need for external food.  Of course, the down side is that those so inclined could also create an organism that would destroy a human, or alter brain chemistry to make them submissive.  So I would agree with that person when he says it is both amazing and scary.
"i had learn to focus i what i could do rather what i couldn't do", Rick Hansen when asked about getting a disabling spinal cord injury at 15. He continues to raise money for spinal cord research and inspire peoople to "make a difference". He doesnt preach any religion.

Offline Omega

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Re: Designing and Building Organisms: Simple As Writing Code
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2009, 06:13:51 PM »
I wouldn't bank on it. As I understand it, there is a risk that our success at eradicating all sorts of 'nasties' will result in our descendants having a deficient immune system. That would suggest that there's a lower "barrier to entry" to some malign mutation of a currently inoffensive virus or bacterium doing serious damage later on down the line.
creation of some fatal disease is not a problem even for rudimentary genetic engineering capabilities.
but the problems is correct balance.

you can make fatal disease which literally melts down infected person, but it wont spread if it kills its hosts. of you can make something like HIV which does almost nothing for ages, but then you give enough time to deal with that problem.

of course if we do some ultra advanced design like disease which is made of bacteria which can transform into virus, or convert corpse into bunch of insects that spread and search for new victims. or do some other unimaginable stuff it may see scary, but such advanced stuff requires very huge DNA which is too big for bacteria