Creating Life from Life: Biotechnology and Science Fiction
Much hope rests in the pursuit of biotechnology. There are more than 300 million people in the world living with diabetes. Though treatable when diagnosed, diabetes has long-term complications, such as increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Diabetes has been reversed in mice through human stem cell implants (Palmer, 2012).
Both the elderly and children can experience macular degeneration leading to significant vision loss. The cure for blindness may have been science fiction, when the sight-restoring visor worn by Star Trek’s character Geordi La Forge was replaced by ocular prosthetic implants. But gene therapy, stem cell therapy, and a genetically modified version of vitamin A are currently being researched as viable cures. And scientists have grown the precursor of the human eye in the laboratory (Cyranoski, 2012).
Many, many millions of people around the world are addicted to nicotine. Nicotine is extremely addictive. The addiction is, in large measure, why cigarette use is so common from young teen smokers to the elderly. But the habit is known to be deadly. In the United States alone, cigarette smoking results in more than 443,000 premature deaths a year. We may be approaching the time when a simple vaccine will treat nicotine addiction. Scientists are experimenting with the use of mice liver for the production of antibodies that consume nicotine the moment it enters the bloodstream, before it ever has a chance to reach the brain or the heart (Weil Medical College, 2012).
Biotechnology involves the manipulation of biological macromolecules or organisms in experimental procedures in order to create useful products and applications in the agricultural, pharmaceutical, health, and allied industries. The potential cures for diabetes, blindness, and nicotine addiction are given above as examples of medical biotechnology. Gene therapy, drug production, and genetic testing all are outgrowths of biotechnology. Closely aligned to biotechnology is bioengineering, which involves the interface of technology with living systems, for similar purposes. In agriculture, biotechnology is applied for crop yield increases, reduced vulnerability to drought, and enhancement of nutritional properties of plants.
The terms “bionanotechnology,” “nanobiotechnology,” and “nanobiology” all refer to the intersection of nanotechnology with biology, nanotechnology being a science that takes place at the scale of a billionth of a meter. The convergence of biotechnology with nanotechnology, information, and cognitive sciences is referred to as NBIC.
- 1 Introduction: Dialectic of Scientific Writing and Science Fiction
- 2 History of the Biotechnology Revolution
- 3 The “Vicious Cycle” of Obesity
- 4 Prion Diseases
- 5 Climate Change and the Future of Freshwater
- 6 Adult Stem Cells to Cure Diabetes-Induced Vision Loss
- 7 Neogenesis
- 8 Keys to Bioproducts from Agriculture
- 9 The Promise and Pitfalls of Cognitive Enhancement
- 10 Who Do They Think They Are?
- 11 The Uncertain Consequences of the Biotechnology
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