Participants are expected to expand their comprehension of a specific science through design imaging and lab work. They will be asked to investigate a biological system in context and express it. At first, he or she must concentrate on illuminating the factors that are "unseen", i.e. wind passing through a tree line, scents, predator and prey relationships, seed distribution, and etc. These diagrams are known as ecograms. This can be accomplished in any variety of media, but preferably 2D montage, sketching, and/or 3D modeling applications. After the ecogram schematic is complete, we will participate in a specific lab exercise in using the polymerase chain reaction.
13:30 – 15:00 Part A: Ecogram Sketch + Model
Imagine you have the wide-ranging power and knowledge to rethink any biological organism or invent new ones. You will be asked to solve a global scale problem such as the Gulf oil spill. Then produce a fabulous ecogram as a speculative image/ polemical proposition that would compassionately alter our biological environment. To help you focus, here are several directives for the near future; combine an elephant with a bacteria that bio-degrades oil, juxtapose a fly with a Venus Flytrap, relocate teeth in a digestive tract, or clone sheep that grow photosynthetic grass coats instead of wool. Each designed solution should adhere to a predetermined set of biological and ethical principles. This is an exercise in design. Therefore it is not possible to have a truly erroneous solution.
15:45 – 17:15 Part B: Lab Exercise
Synthetic biology is an emerging field that uses the knowledge base and tools of molecular biology to engineer artificial biological systems and to standardize genetic components for that purpose. The shift towards engineering in this field is evident in terms such as “chassis” and “parts”, used to describe cells and genetic elements, respectively. The applications of synthetic biology vary widely. For some, the goal is to engineer and/or “transplant” entire biosynthetic pathways into more genetically tractable organisms in order to industrially produce valuable small molecules, such as pharmaceuticals and bio-fuels. For other groups, the construction of artificial pathways in cells is a step towards the creation and study of synthetic communities of microbes, interacting with one another in ways never before observed in nature. Thus, by using established tools of molecular biology we can create novel systems of biological signaling and communication.
One such tool that is vital throughout molecular biology is PCR (polymerase chain reaction), invented by Nobel laureate Dr. Kary Mullis. Its myriad uses have evolved from the basic amplification of DNA for cloning in research, towards the construction of novel genetic components in synthetic biology and in diagnostic assays in modern medicine and forensics.
Our workshop will permit participants to use this procedure to amplify a miniscule portion of their own genome. The region of the human genome selected will be a piece of the participants own DNA that encodes a cell surface receptor found on helper T cells. This receptor, termed CCR5, is crucial for enabling the docking and subsequent entry of the HIV-1 strain of the human immunodeficiency virus. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the European-Caucasian population encodes a shortened mutant form of this gene, termed CCR5D32, which allows a subpopulation of homozygous carriers (~1%) to possess lower rates of infectivity for certain strains of HIV. We believe this workshop to be an excellent demonstration of a technique now utilized in almost every facet of biology.
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