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← Synthetic biology and the rise of the 'spider-goats'

Synthetic biology and the rise of the 'spider-goats' - Comments

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 1 by Neodarwinian

There is a scholastic contest every year in synthetic biology where colleges compete to find " biobricks " that are put into a " bank " of such findings. Awards are given and the competition is fierce. For the life of me I can not remember the name of the contest.

Silk from goats. Who would have thought of it as possible 50 years ago.

Sun, 15 Jan 2012 22:12:12 UTC | #908678

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 2 by QuestioningKat

art meet science

(strange and interesting video with some medical possibilities)

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 01:28:45 UTC | #908728

I Deny's Avatar Comment 3 by I Deny

Interesting, though I'm sure glad that some other species isn't experimenting on my family.

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 01:30:02 UTC | #908730

Quine's Avatar Comment 4 by Quine

See this video segment from a NOVA program about this last year.

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 01:40:05 UTC | #908731

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 5 by rjohn19

From time to time, I find science a little creepy. This is one of those times.

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 05:05:39 UTC | #908765

SoHelpMeReason's Avatar Comment 6 by SoHelpMeReason

I believe my professor mentioned insulin-producing yeast cells are used today, too. (Or was it E. Coli? I can't quite remember.) And there are also goats that produce Human Growth Hormone (HGH), so it's not just silk.

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 05:52:33 UTC | #908771

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 7 by Richard Dawkins

From time to time, I find science a little creepy. This is one of those times.

Suppose genetically engineered oil-substitutes (reward of scientific talent and enlightened education) were to destroy the economy of Saudi Arabia and the worldwide influence of such benighted Islamic theocracies (reward of no talent whatever but an accident of geography). Does that cheer you up? It does me.

Richard

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 07:38:09 UTC | #908784

DavidMcC's Avatar Comment 8 by DavidMcC

Oh, great! I just hope that Freckles doesn't learn the trick of spinning a web, that's all! ... Especially if she also has the genes for producing the sticky droplets on some of the strands!

:-)

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 09:51:46 UTC | #908799

Graxan's Avatar Comment 9 by Graxan

Comment 5 by rjohn19 :

From time to time, I find science a little creepy. This is one of those times.

There's two things I thought about when this worrisome notion of a half-spider creature entered my head.

Firstly, it's not a 50/50 cross between two species, it is a complete goat with one tiny portion of it's DNA altered with a specific gene to produce an effect in it's biology. In twenty thousand or so protein producing genes which account for roughly 1% of the genome, they altered a handful, copied from a spider.

Secondly I feel that if this were a bacterium that were genetically altered to produce silk, nobody would bat an eyelid. The idea that a large multi-cellular creature has been used instead somehow frightens us more. Perhaps it is their closeness to us in the evolutionary tree or perhaps it is the idea of giant spider creatures!

I'm inspired by the recent revelation that all we really are as multi-cellular organisms is a collection of single-cells cooperating together. Although this was probably realised long ago, not being a scientist, I first heard about it, I think, on David Attenborough's 'First Life' two part series discussing the origins of life on earth. This idea is a whole other discussion though.

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 10:24:13 UTC | #908805

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 10 by Vorlund

Comment 7 by Richard Dawkins :

Suppose genetically engineered oil-substitutes (reward of scientific talent and enlightened education) were to destroy the economy of Saudi Arabia and the worldwide influence of such benighted Islamic theocracies (reward of no talent whatever but an accident of geography). Does that cheer you up? It does me. Richard

One of the goals of science and engineering must be to find either alternatives to oil or ways of doing without it or at least less of it. One of the consequences would surely be a radical change to the current geopolitical landscape. It is a delight to the imagination.

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 11:39:00 UTC | #908812

SomersetJohn's Avatar Comment 11 by SomersetJohn

I do worry somewhat about the ethical dimensions of this type of research. No way do I believe it should be banned, on any grounds. However I do believe that pretty strong oversight is needed. While it will be almost impossible to achieve I would like a ban on the military use of such research, international controls on the export of technology involved in this research etc.

I'm sure there are already such controls in place, I'd like to know more about them, who operates them, how tightly are they enforced, and are they based on reason rather than mumbo-jumbo or kneejerk fear.

Yes, I may just be worried about things I don't fully understand, but I contend there is a vast difference between reasonable fear and rampant paranoia. I just hope I'm on the reasonable side.

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 12:41:57 UTC | #908818

veggiemanuk's Avatar Comment 12 by veggiemanuk

As with the Biofuels, I wonder if we ever get to the stage where we can have 'Bioforges', each churning out a raw material of choice, say Gold for instance. A sort of 'Bioalchemy', just need to find some DNA coded for gold production ;)

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 13:10:31 UTC | #908824

I Deny's Avatar Comment 13 by I Deny

Comment 7 by Richard Dawkins :

From time to time, I find science a little creepy. This is one of those times.

Suppose genetically engineered oil-substitutes (reward of scientific talent and enlightened education) were to destroy the economy of Saudi Arabia and the worldwide influence of such benighted Islamic theocracies (reward of no talent whatever but an accident of geography). Does that cheer you up? It does me.

Richard

I wonder if this scenario would play out in a way similar to the patents placed on genetically engineered crops? I'm not very familiar with European agriculture, but in the US these foods are under tight monopoly yet. It's been very tough to get through to representatives in the face of all the lobbyists these days!

Cheers,

Eric

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 23:48:46 UTC | #909000

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 14 by rjohn19

Okay, okay- so I anthropomorphized a little. I just pictured some poor baby goat suckling itself to death on a future Gucci scarf and a sympathetic writing spider like Charlotte crashing to her untimely death trying to get down to Wilbur on a butt-bungee strand of feta cheese.

Mea culpa.

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 03:34:00 UTC | #909050

Outcast in Zion's Avatar Comment 15 by Outcast in Zion

Years of reading science fiction tells me this will all end in tears, yet, go science I say!

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 05:17:35 UTC | #909063

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 16 by Zeuglodon

Comment 5 by rjohn19

From time to time, I find science a little creepy. This is one of those times.

"Creepy"? I'm unimpressed by this attitude. What else is this besides a kneejerk reaction? Think about the actual ramifications of a goat secreting silk fibres, not how you feel about the idea based on gut reaction. It hardly sounds like a bio-disaster waiting to happen, does it?

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 16:57:51 UTC | #909215

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 17 by Alan4discussion

After extracting the silk protein from the milk, they were suggesting the use of the silk for repairing human tendons and ligaments in operations. Apparently there is no adverse reaction to it.

Wed, 18 Jan 2012 18:28:20 UTC | #909598