Thursday, March 24, 2005

Cyborg Sex Selection: Britain's so-called "Frankenstein Report"

Hurray for Frankenstein! British parliamentarians welcome the biotech future | Reason online
Here is yet another example of how literature provides the dominant language for critiquing and commenting on techno-embodiment. Jo Average does not have the language or training to discuss serious issues of medical ethics in today's world where highly specialized terminology precludes participation. What this means is that legitimate concerns are continually reduced to ridiculous allusions and metaphors. Any version of the Frankenstein story--whether Shelley's or later versions in film--has little to do with selecting the sex of an embryo.
"First, the U.K. Members of Parliament (MPs) dare to suggest that a wide range of current and potential interventions in human reproduction can, in fact, be done ethically. For example, the MPs find "no adequate justification for prohibiting the use of sex selection for family balancing." Family balancing means using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select and implant embryos of a specific sex to ensure the desired proportion of girls and boys among your children.

The report also says it's OK to create cloned human embryos for research aimed at producing immune-compatible transplant tissues and cells. British regulatory authorities have already approved human cloning research proposals. The Brits even go as far as suggesting that cloning for human reproduction might be ethically acceptable.."

Here's a link to the United Kingdom Parliament Select Committee on Science and Technology Fifth Report.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Biological Engineering: New Undergraduate Programme at MIT

Guardian Unlimited | Life | From the cells up

If this link isn't permanent, search for "From the cells up" (10 March 2005).

"The point of using biological [engineering] to do information processing isn't in order to replace your laptop computer," says Endy. "Instead, we can use biology-based computing to implement modest amounts of memory and logic in places where we don't have any - like the cells in your liver."

Imagine building a biological counter into a liver cell that was triggered every time the cell divided. Another biological device monitors the counter so that, if the cell has divided more than 200 times (in other words, it has lost control of cell division and might become a tumour), it is killed. This could be a very effective way to beat cancer - with none of the suffering of chemotherapy or inconvenience of surgery.