What Is Natural?

For several weeks now I have been trying to write about the Nuffield Bioethics Report called (un)Natural. The Nuffield Bioethics Council is a non-partisan bioethics think tank that analyzes particular issues of importance in science, medicine, and technology. They are based in the UK and have some influence over policy issues because of their presence in the mainstream media. adidas nmd r1 femme

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  • Their report with the longer title of “Ideas about naturalness in public and political debates about science, technology, and medicine,” analyzes the various ways that the terms “natural,” “unnatural,” and “nature” are used in the media, in journal articles, and in other venues. Compra Mochilas Kanken Baratas They are particularly concerned with how those terms shape people’s perceptions of new technologies. They solicited the help from experts in language and had poetry readings. Continue reading

    Where Do Babies Come From? Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells…Sort of

    Recent headlines tout that it may be possible for same-sex couples to have biological children thanks to stem cell technology. Nike Air Max 90 Femme Léopard Using skin stem cells, scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Weismann Institute found that it is possible to make primordial germ cells, the cells that eventually form into egg and sperm (gametes), from induced pluripotent stem cells created from a donor’s skin. Air Jordan 9 For Kids The opportunity for same-sex couples to have biological children may take over the headlines, but it is not the only, or necessarily the primary reason, scientists are interested in this research. Maglia Chris Paul One thing scientists hope to do is to use this technique to study age-related diseases. Nike Air Max Thea Homme Bleu New Balance 577 hombre As we go through our lives, we accumulate epigenetic messages that tell genes when to turn on or off, when to make more cells, or when to stop making cells. Ryan Kerrigan Redskins Jerseys Recent research shows that certain cancers and age-related diseases are likely due to these epigenetic factors going awry. These epigenetic factors are “reset” in germ cells, meaning scientists can start over and see how these factors develop at the cellular level. There is still much research that needs to be done in this area, including questions as to which epigenetic factors are passed on and which ones are actually reset in germ cells (See Nature’s recent issue on the results of the NIH’s Roadmap Epigenetics Project here). While the epigenetic research is interesting, the headlines emphasize the reproductive possibilities.

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  • This technique could be another option for infertile couples who want to have biological children, including same-sex couples who want children that are biologically related to both of them. New Balance 515 m?skie However, what is not touted as loudly is that, for now, the technology only works for male same-sex couples. Nike Air Jordan 14

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  • The why this technique can be used for two men but not two women has to do with how the cells are made. Primordial germ cells are made from skin cells are taken from each person to be converted into induced pluripotent stem cells. Those stem cells are then converted into primordial germ cells by turning on or off certain genetic factors involved in converting pluripotent stem cells to particular cell types. Female cells have XX chromosomes and male cells have XY chromosomes, but in order to make primordial germ cells that are precursors to sperm, researchers need a Y chromosome. Lead researcher, Dr. NIKE FLYKNIT LUNAR3

    Hannah pointed out, that it is easier to take away a chromosome than to insert one. South Florida Bulls Women don’t have any Y chromosomes to contribute, meaning that making primordial germ cells from women “is a long way off.” Finally, one of the more troubling factors in this research is that little has been said about the health and well-being of the children that would be produced from this technique. A key point in the original research article in Cell is that SOX17 is a key factor in the process of making primordial germ cells and likely plays an important role in gene regulation. This was surprising to scientists because SOX17 does not play a key role in mouse development. This means that even though mice have been used in prior studies on creating primordial germ cells, they may not be a good model system for creating the subsequent sperm and egg cells. Often before a procedure or a drug makes it to human trials, it is first tested in mice and then in primates. When it comes to human development, though, things do not translate from animal models to human models as easily. Nike Flyknit Donna Once scientists are able to take the primordial cells and advance them to egg and sperm cells, they will be able to create an embryo. However, because the mouse models are different, this is a case in which we have no way of knowing whether these embryos or the children will be healthy until the experiment is actually done. It is unclear from the interviews or the article if the assumption is that “unhealthy” embryos will die off before they implant in the uterus or how exactly researchers are expecting to test whether this technique work as another reproductive technology. Nike Heren

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  • If unhealthy embryos die, this poses an ethical problem for those that assume embryos should be granted dignity in their own right. But even if one does not accept that embryos are accorded a certain level of dignity, what about babies and children? What do scientists plan to do if the children born from this procedure are unhealthy or deformed? Finally, it is worth mentioning that this technique would provide a source of eggs, which are needed for various other reproductive techniques and research endeavors. adidas yeezy boost 750 m?skie For example, The UK just passed legislation permitting what has been dubbed “three-parent IVF” in which scientists transfer the nucleus from one woman’s egg to another woman’s enucleated egg that will then be used in IVF. The hope is to prevent mitochondrial disease which is genetically passed down to offspring from the mother. Air VAPORMAX Obtaining skin cells from a donor is much less invasive and poses less of a risk to the donor than obtaining her eggs after inducing hyperovulation.

    Can We Make an Embryo in a Dish?

    Induced pluripotent stem cells and embryonic stem cells are functionally equivalent, but should we be concerned about making embryos in a dish? Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have been hailed as the discovery of the decade, providing an ethical alternative to embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Both types of stem cells are pluripotent, which means they can potentially make all of the cells in they body. Adidas NMD Femme This is contrasted to totipotent cells, which can give rise to an entire organism. asics gel kinsei 5 homme Parajumpers Femme Masterpiece Long The very early embryo consists of totipotent cells. Induced pluripotent stem cells have technical advantages over ESCs because the patient’s cells can be used rather than donor cells, and they are easier to control compared to ESCs. nike internationalist homme However, one of the concerns with iPSCs was whether they are truly equivalent to ESCs because of the various transcription factors that need to be turned on or off to get the cells to regress back to their pluripotent state. nike air max 2016 uomo

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  • This debate was laid to rest with a new research report in Science, demonstrating that while iPSCs are genetically distinct from ESCs, they are functionally equivalent. New Balance 574 homme Adidas Femme New Balance 373 mujer Before deeming every iPSC procedure ethical and effective, consider the question several researchers from Australia, The Netherlands, and the U.K. Asics Heren ask in a Nature Methods commentary “What if stem cells turn into embryos in a dish?” Their reason for asking stems from research that shows how pluripotent stem cells (both iPSCs and ESs) can form organoids, small three-dimensional clumps of cells that are comprised of a particular organ’s cell type. Chaussures nike pas cher

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  • The techniques to make pluripotent stem cells undergo the self-assembly and morphogenesis required to form an organoid also causes these cells to have many of the properties of embryos at the gastrulation stage of development. Nike Air Force 1 Without delving too deeply into the complexities of embryonic development, the gastrulation stage is a key point when it comes to regulations for human embryo research. nike dynamo free td (See here for a simple summary of recent research about stem cells that have been dubbed “gastruloids”). kanken baratas The U.K. adidas xeno superstar italia

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  • has a fourteen-day limit on human embryonic research. Human embryos are not allowed to remain intact in vitro beyond the fourteen-day point or after the formation of the primitive streak, whichever comes first. scarpe nike air max bambino scontate Australia has similar regulations. The pluripotent cells that appeared to reach the gastrulation stage seemed to form a primitive streak and showed signs of forming the beginnings of the Central Nervous System. Matt Holliday Authentic Jersey There are two things to consider.

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  • First, while these are hallmarks of a particular point in embryonic development, it is not the case that this clump of cells is an embryo. The stem cells are self-organizing, but they are without the same kind of holistic directionality that an embryo has. final fantasy 14 gil nike free 5.0 uomo saldi So while these stem cells proliferate in a more “organized” way than, say, a tumor, they lack key embryonic features. Nike Air Foamposite Nike Air Max 2016 Heren However, the authors pose an important question that needs to be addressed because the technology could eventually make embryos in a dish. new balance 574

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  • Consider two situations in which it is possible to make an embryo without two genetic contributors, a mother and a father. The first is cloning, or somatic cell nuclear transfer, and the second is making gametes using iPSCs. Women Air Jordan 9 Somatic cell nuclear transfer has been successfully done in both animals and humans, although only animal cloned embryos have been implanted and birthed. Cloned animals tend to be unhealthy and often die young.

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  • This continues to be an area of research, as evidenced by a recent article in Cell Stem Cell in which researchers from South Korea reported more efficient methods for cloning human embryos.* Gametogenesis is another active area of research. If induced pluripotent stem cells could be induced to differentiate into gametes (egg and sperm), then this would theoretically allow the creation of an embryo. Air More Uptempo Colorways This embryo may only have one parent if the egg and sperm were made from the same donor. nike air zoom pegasus 32 femme Or, it could be made from two parents who are the same gender. nike internationalist enfants Adidas Zx Flux Femme Blanche Nike TN Requin 2017 This is not yet possible because the oocyte is particularly tricky to form, but there is ongoing research attempting to produce both types of gametes from induced pluripotent stem cells. nike air max 1 og homme Maglia Patrick Ewing

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  • Whether one uses somatic cell nuclear transfer or gametogenesis via iPSCs, the creation of a human embryo is ethically problematic for many reasons. Adidas Zx 750 Homme The authors of the Nature Methods commentary raise important questions that hinge on when an embryo becomes an embryo in the laboratory setting. There are valid reasons to give the embryo a special status whether it is ever implanted in a uterus or not. Nike Air Max 2017 Donna Bianche

    Adidas Superstar Schoenen Dames As technology allows us to unravel the complex operations that go into meiosis and embryogenesis, we must carefully consider where moral lines are drawn. Nike Air Max Thea Homme Bleu Because making an embryo in a dish would be taking the technology too far, drawing ethical lines may require a nuanced approach to just what types of experiments are okay and where in the technical process the line must be drawn so that pluripotent stem cells remain at the pluripotent stage. air max homme pas cher Nike Air Max 2016 Dames Zwart * Technically, “clones” like Dolly the sheep are really chimeras, meaning there is a small amount of DNA from the oocyte donor that is different from the nuclear DNA. Nike Air Max 2017 Heren blauw The clone would produce an embryo from one genetic source if both the original cell and the oocyte came from the same animal.

    Synthetic Biology and Making Morphine in the Lab

    Prescription pain medicine addiction has become prevalent and widespread with several areas in the U.S. calling it a public health crisis. Opiates include prescription pain medicines, such as Vicodin, OxyContin, or fentanyl. The surge in opiate drug addiction can be traced to changes in the increase in prescriptions for opiate drugs beginning in the 1990s. Now headlines tout the possibility of a “home-brewed heroin.” If we unpack the headline, it turns out this “home-brewed” heroin is not exactly here yet. Scientists have replicated all of the metabolic processes that opium poppies use to turn glucose into morphine. nike air max 90 pas cher They have replicated parts of this process in yeast strains in an effort to make less addictive pain medicines as well as other analgesics. This synthesis of cellular processes is called synthetic biology. asics onitsuka tiger femme By way of a quick review, synthetic biology involves creating the digital DNA code to make proteins, the internal machinery of a cell, in the lab. Nike Chaussures Femme Yeast and e.coli are simple organisms and are often used to insert the DNA in a cell fitted with the necessary equipment to replicate and express the DNA. Craig Venter, in his book on synthetic biology, Life at the Speed of Light, calls DNA the software and yeast provides the hardware. Scientists want to tweak the software to make tailor-made drugs. Synthetic biology overlaps with genetic engineering, but where it differs is that synthetic biology allows scientists to replicate an entire cellular pathway within an organism, such as yeast, as opposed to inserting or deleting mutations in a DNA strand and then inserting it in a cell. Parajumpers Windbreaker Mary Todd The metabolic pathway reported in Nature (See the Nature News article) is the first part of the glucose-to-morphine pathway. Julio Jones Alabama Football Jerseys The second part of the pathway, as well as a reaction that links the two parts, was recently reported by other research groups. All of these parts have been demonstrated separately in various yeast strains. If scientists were to combine these parts in one yeast strain, then theoretically, they would be able to convert glucose to morphine. This has not been done yet, but will likely occur soon. AIR MAX 2016

    The process for making morphine from glucose is complex (it’s approximately eighteen steps), and because scientists do not know the whole genome for the opium poppy, they have had difficulty identifying the enzymes that catalyze each step in the reaction pathway. To overcome this hurdle, scientists turned to enzymes in other organisms to that catalyze similar reactions. The most recent research that identifies the first half of the morphine pathway used an enzyme from sugar beets that scientists mutated to ensure that it produced the product they needed without unwanted byproducts. The question remains, are we at a point where people can brew their own synthetic morphine? The short answer is no, not yet. Adidas Zx 850 Heren First, all of the steps have not been combined into a yeast strain. While this may be the next step in making synthetic morphine in the lab, it will need to be tested, and it may not work at first. Once scientists succeed at creating a yeast strain that can accomplish all of the steps, the process will need to be refined and optimized. New Balance 530 femme Johnny Cueto Jersey Secondly, in order for someone to brew their own morphine, he would have to acquire the yeast strain containing the synthetic DNA. NIKE AIR FOOTSCAPE This would mean acquiring the yeast from someone who not only knows the DNA code, but also has a PCR machine or some way to make synthetic DNA and then incorporate it into yeast. adidas superstar 80s homme Lastly, even if someone did acquire the yeast strain, according to Christine Smolke of Stanford University whose lab has made a semi-synthetic opioid using yeast, in an interview with Wired, said that the fermentation process would require specialized equipment and conditions that would be difficult to do outside a laboratory. It would also not produce enough morphine to make it cost effective. Adidas Superstar Femme Portee Fjallraven Kanken 16L While we are not at the point of worrying about home-brewed liquid morphine, the authors of the study were concerned about future consequences of their research. Adidas Zx 850 Femme One of the motivations for designing the synthetic pathway is to tweak it to make less addictive pain medicine or to make medicines for other uses. asics gel kinsei 5 femme This same ability to tweak the morphine-producing pathway could also be used for nefarious purposes. Nike Air Max 95 Femme New Balance 577 mujer The authors of the study sought ethical guidance from biotechnology-policy specialists Kenneth Oye, of MIT and Tania Bubela, of the University of Alberta. They published an article in Nature with Chappell Lawson, also from MIT, that came out in tandem with the research article. Oye, Bubela, and Chappell delineate the ethical and legal considerations for such research and provide four broad areas that should be considered:

    • Engineering – The yeast strains could be engineered to make them less appealing to criminals and more difficult to cultivate outside of a laboratory setting, similar to biocontainment practices with e. nike air zoom pegasus 33 homme coli.
    • Screening – Since the DNA sequence would need to be ordered from a lab, there could be a screening process in place that flags orders of opiate-producing yeast strains
    • Security – They could employ biosecurity measures, such as watermarking yeast made from certain labs and background checks on people working with the strains.
    • Regulation – Opium is a globally controlled substance. The laws that apply to opium could be extended to cover opiate-producing yeast strains.

    Overall, the headlines are a little misleading in that we are not yet on the cusp of people brewing their own morphine. However, the authors should be commended for considering the consequences of publishing their research and seeking ethical guidance. It is a good example of pre-emptively considering the hazards and consequences of technological advancement rather than responding to a crisis.

    Artificial Intelligence in the News

    There’s been much ado about artificial intelligence lately. mu legend power leveling This has largely been prompted by a computer convincing some people that it is a 13-year-old boy and an article written by a veritable who’s who among emerging tech thinkers warning of the risks of superintelligent machines. cheap mu Legend zen Lol Humans A computerbot, named Eugene Gootsman, was able to convince 33% of people who interacted with him for five minutes via chat that he was a human. This was touted as a clear instance of a computer passing the Turing Test, but it was met with some criticism, including this piece in by Gary Marcus in The New Yorker. buy mu legend zen Ironically, rather than showcasing advances in human ingenuity, the Eugene Gootsman experiment reveals some of our less noble attributes. mu2legendzen For one, in order to make computers sufficiently human-like, programmers needed to make the machines dumber. As Joshua Batson points out in his Wired commentary, prior winners in an annual Turing Test competition incorporate mistakes and silliness to convince the judges that the computer is a person. This calls into question the value of a test for artificial intelligence which requires a machine to be “dumbed-down” in order to pass. legend zen for sale Secondly, the Turing Test, as it was presented in the media, could easily be one of those tests that the psychology department at your local university conducts on willing participants. The results of the Eugene Gootsman test say more about the judges than it does about the machine. Taken from another perspective, 33% of people tested were more gullible than the rest of the participants. You Have to Want to Want It This is contrasted to Stephen Hawking’s warning in an Independent article, co-authored by Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark, and Frank Wilczek, that superintelligence may provide many benefits, but could also lead to dire consequences if it cannot be controlled. Hawking and company write that “One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand.” Yes, one can imagine technology doing this, but the question is can the technology imagine itself doing this? Hawking assumes that we will have the capability to engineer creativity or that creativity will somehow emerge from technology. However, we see from the examples of Eugene Gootsman, Watson the computer, Google smart cars, and Siri, that complex programming does not produce ingenuity. One could argue that the only way a machine would even muster up the “motivation” to do any of these things is if a human programmed that motivation into it. An example from science fiction is Asimov’s three laws of robots. mu legend zen for sale These are the inviolable principles programmed into the hardwiring of every robot in Isaac Asimov’s fictional world. These laws provide the motivations behind the robots’ behavior, and while they lead to some ridiculous and troubling antics, they are not the same as a robot coming up with its own fundamental motivations. In Asimov’s series, I, Robot, the impetus behind each of the robots’ behavior harkens back to these pre-programmed (ostensibly by humans) laws. mu legend zen This is not to dismiss the field of artificial intelligence. This is to call into question some of the assumptions behind the recent hype regarding the progress and the potential peril of AI. Technology is becoming increasingly more powerful with the potential for both helping and hurting. Hawking’s warning that “the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all” is worth heeding.

    The Language of Morality

    When it comes to making moral decisions, is it better to have emotional distance or to have compassion? An ethics professor once told me that ethics is not about choosing between right and wrong because you should always choose what’s right. Parajumpers Homme Ethics is typically about choosing between two wrongs. Certainly, if two people are approaching a decision from differing moral foundations, they may disagree on the “right” decision, but what the professor meant was that they are still trying to decide the “right” decision in a difficult situation in which there are “wrongs” that must be weighed on both sides of the issue. When people disagree, they are often prioritizing the wrongs differently. Let’s take a typical example from ethics class: if a train is running out of control, and one track has one person tied to it and another track with five people tied to it and you have control of the switch that will direct the train to either of these two tracks, which one do you pick? More than merely a macabre puzzle game, these improbable scenarios are meant to illuminate how one makes ethical decisions. Often, in the train example, people will kill the one person to save the five people. The next bit is to change the scenario slightly to see if the same kind of utilitarian calculation applies. For example, the one person on the train track is your father, and the five people on the other track are strangers. You still have control of the switch, what do you choose to do? Or, another way to change the scenario is to change the demographics of the victims. What if the one person is a child, while the five people are escaped prisoners? Or, the one person is a woman and the five people are men? Thankfully, we rarely find ourselves in such troubling situations. napapijri geographic wikipedia However, what influences our answer to these questions becomes much more important when we move out the realm of imaginary trains and into real situations. One example of this is in medicine. Bioethicists often debate how to determine who receives scarce medical resources. Take the train example, and whether your answers changed when we changed the demographic of the people tied to the rail. This is quite similar to the questions ethicists ask when it comes to deciding who should receive an organ from an organ donor. There are more people waiting for an organ transplant than there are available organs, so we have a situation in which the ethicist must decide how to choose the person who lives in a fair and just way. This is a case of weighing out the “wrongs” because no matter what the ethicist chooses, someone will likely die. People make decisions based on many factors, but an article in The Economist indicates one unforeseen factor. A study in which some participants were asked two variations of the train scenario in their native language while other participants were asked these scenarios in a different language showed a difference when asked in a different language. Participants were not fluent in the other language, and were tested to ensure they were able to understand the question. In one scenario, the train will hit five people who are lying on the track, and the only way to save them is to push a fat man onto the track in front of the train. You cannot jump in front of the train; the only way to save them is to shove the fat man in the path of the train. belts small accessories The other scenario is the switch and two tracks mentioned above. The switch scenario emotionally distances the person from the violent act. When given the switch scenario, most people opt to kill the one person in order to save five. This was the case whether the question was asked in a person’s native language or in a different language. However, when the person must push the fat man onto the track, about 20% of people would push the fat man onto the track when asked in their native language (This was also the same for people fluent in a particular language), but when asked in a different language, the percentage was 33%. After several tests and analyses to account for factors such as cultural mores and randomness, the study confirmed that when people are asked about the fat man scenario in a different language, they were more likely to push him onto the track compared to when they are asked in their native language or a language in which they have fluency. It seems that the different language provides emotional distance similar to the way the switch provided emotional distance. We live in a globalized world in which many people communicate and make decisions in a different language. Based on this study, it seems that language barriers also create emotional distance that is not necessarily there if the person is making the decision in his or her native language. In the area of medicine, this may have implications for patients who are asked to make a decision while living in a different country that does not speak his or her language. Additionally, this may have implications for patients who are unfamiliar with technical medical jargon, in which the use of jargon may be similar to hearing a problem in a different language.