The iGem Journal.
10th may 2010
It all started with weird notions like spontaneous generation where people believed that living beings came into being spontaneously out of thin air. Better an idiotic start then no start at all! I once read in this book called “Between Eternities” that saying that life as it is now on earth happened just by chance without a designer/creator is like saying that ink was spilled on paper and beautiful poetry came out of nowhere when there was no ink and paper to begin with.
And to look at the present scenario it is like “Whoa!!” Carrying out experiment after experiment to prove guesswork seems like one tedious and draining task. If one is not passionate enough it is better not to set sail in this ocean.At least I wouldn’t dare to.
11th may 2010
We now know that the basic building blocks of living matter are proteins which are organic compounds made of amino acids arranged in a liner chain and folded into a globular form.
The studies started with the discovery of microorganisms when Robert Hooke invented the first microscope which detected these tiny organisms. Based on these studies Hooke published Micrographia which had amazing illustrations of these tiny creatures. Brilliant artwork. Then there was Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek who was the first person to observe and study single celled organisms. He studied sperm cells and according to him there were tiny human beings inside sperms which grow up to be a full sized human being. Quite a male chauvinistic pig, I must say.
13th may 2010
Charles Darwin held deep interest in living beings and went on to study them in their natural habitats to find out where all of us have come from. This led to the theory of evolution”. But he never found out whether the chicken came first or the egg.
Meanwhile Gregor Mendel started his experiments with pea plants to see how characteristics are transferred from one generation to the next. He found out that there were some dominant characteristics and some recessive. And these were carried by genes from generation to generation transferring characteristics while in the process never changing their form. It must be strange for people in those times to even think about comparing themselves with peas, let alone accepting the fact that certain processes in the human body are similar to pea plants like gene transfer.
14th may 2010
Genes may be of two different types known as alleles; a dominant allele and a recessive allele. Organisms are distinguished by its phenotype which is what it looks like and genotype which is what allele it has. An organism is called homozygous if it contains the same allele in both the homologous chromosomes and heterozygous if it contains one dominant allele and one recessive allele… blah, blah, blah. Too much of gene talk is happening, and it tends to go over my head when it gets this monotonous. I won’t be surprised if this “guy with the tie” is accused of putting someone into a coma just by lecturing them.
18th may 2010
After the invention of better and more powerful microscopes biologists started revealing that all complex living beings are made up of cells and all cells exist because of division of pre existing cells and before division everything in the cell is doubled. Inside the cell there is a nucleus. All the genetic material of a living being is present inside the nucleus of a cell in the form of chromosomes which is made up of DNA molecules with are double stranded helical structures. The strands are made up of a sugar and a phosphate. Joining the two strands is the four different types of proteins called bases. They are adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. A always pairs up with T and C always pair up with G and vice versa. Human beings have 26 different pairs of chromosomes. The gonads are the only cells which have half the number of chromosomes as compared to all other cells in the body.
Facts, facts and some more facts, is getting thrown left, right and centre and honestly now my mind involuntarily shuts down to anything remotely related to even a single cell of this “guy with the tie”. I digested whatever I could from his lectures, but now I can’t help it anymore.
19th may 2010
By the process of transcription an equivalent RNA copy of a DNA sequence is made. This RNA goes out of the nucleus and by the process of translation ribosome synthesizes protein by consuming ATP. This is how proteins are made inside the cell according to the information present in the DNA.
I found it quite a cool assembly line kind of arrangement. And I read somewhere that the human DNA, if straightened, would be between three and nine feet long. We are beautiful and awesome machines.
20th may 2010
It is possible for a gene to cross over from one chromosome to another. So this makes the joining of pieces of different genetic material possible. This way if a gene for a particular characteristic in an organism is joined with the DNA of another organism, it is possible to make the organism imbibe that characteristic from the host organism in most of the cases. This fact enabled man hack into natural systems and tweak them. I am still in the process of thinking how right or wrong that is. For right now, no comments.
21st may 2010
Today I am summarizing the crazy ideas that I have until now which look insanely impossible. But then again quoting one of my most favorite quotes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I have to say “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.
So here it goes…
1. Primitive man frozen in permafrost brought back to life by cloning.
2. A 3D organic printer which can print out anything organic with just few cartridges of the basic organic elements i.e. carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, sulphur and phosphorus.
3. An organism with a million protective outer shells and a super fast capability to regenerate.
That’s all the craziness I can enlist for right now.
24th may 2010
Today it was craziness part two. We had to design a wacky organism and write an abstract for it. Mine goes as follows:
I am publishing through this paper the results of my genetically engineered machine experiments on microorganisms which resulted in the genetically modified organism called Dopaminium Duali.
It is a single celled bacteria generally found in our atmosphere. This bacterium is found to be the only bacterium where there are different male and female forms found. The females are responsible for food consumption and digestion where as the males are responsible for reproduction. The male bacterium doesn’t have a digestive system of its own and so it mates with the female just for the sake of nutrition. This organism doesn’t mate for reproduction. The males reproduce in a unique fashion of quaternary fission where the parent cell after the fission divides into for daughter cells where three are males and one is always a female. Because of this imbalance in the number of males and females there is a big amount of competition for the females.
In order to attract the females the males need to release strong pheromones; the stronger the better. This organism is capable of latching onto the human body harmlessly and makes it increase its production of dopamine and endorphins which in turn it consumes and turns into its pheromones. It does so by releasing capsaicin into the human body which is a chemical known to increase the endorphin levels. This chemical is also found in chilies. D. Duali females have been found in large numbers on chilly plants which consumes capsaicin from the plants.
Because of this property if this bacterium can be cultured and sprayed in gloomy places like mental hospitals and offices in a small way it can actually lift people’s spirits up and make the world a happier, less stressful place to live in.
26th may 2010
It was kind of like a research day. We looked up a few bio-artists like Stelarc who has an ear implanted in his arm (one needs to be a little extra eccentric to do that!!) and Orlan who has altered her own body several times by the means of plastic surgery. These two artists have taken extreme measures to alter their bodies and although it might look downright crazy to someone who just sees them, to look at it from their point of view those modifications are just means of exploration of their own bodies and taking them to another level.
I have one metal plate, five screws and one nail in my ankle which facilitated the healing of my bi-malleolar fracture in my right ankle. Now it is my choice whether I want to keep them or take them out for which I have to go through another surgery. Which means; another session of spinal anesthesia, excruciating pain, pain killers, IV drips, cast, not being able to walk for a month, again trying to walk limping and all that jazz. But I want to do it, even though the metal doesn’t affect me or my daily life in any way at all, because I somehow don’t want a foreign material inside my body.
When I see my situation in contrast to what these artists are doing I can see it is the desire that drives them and me. The only difference is I am ready to go through pain to take out something foreign out of my body, while they are going through similar kind of pain to implant some into theirs.
28th may 2010
I had kept a packet of bread and an omelet to go bad 10 days ago. The omelet is showing no signs of getting mould, while inside the packet of bread I can not only see moldy bread but the mould is perspiring. The entire surface is covered dark greenish mould. The mould is taking all the nutrition it can from the bread slices and at the same time destroying the surface. The omelet is in a glass and all the fat has accumulated at the bottom while the omelet is kind of floating.
I hate animals or rotting food. I wish it was a cooking project.
31st may 2010
Today we looked up some unique artists like Tuur Van Balen, Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and James King. I really like James King’s work specially his projects called “Potential Pharmacy” and “Dressing the Meat of Tomorrow”. I like the fun but no nonsense way in which King presents his projects. They have a sense of humor attached to them but at the same time we can easily see through the serious message behind them. On the other hand most of Daisy’s work looked like they meant to raise questions about where we as human beings stand with respect to biotechnology.
It is amazing how art can describe certain simple facts of science which science itself fails to illustrate with all its accurate facts and calculations and diagrams.