'Artificial life' breakthrough - are synthetic cells ethical?

news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10132762.stm

Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell.

The researchers constructed a bacterium's "genetic software" and transplanted it into a host cell.

The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species "dictated" by the synthetic DNA.

The advance, published in Science, has been hailed as a scientific landmark, but critics say there are dangers posed by synthetic organisms.

On one hand, creating synthetic life forms could potentially be a revolution in medicine, the environment, and energy. But does this already cross an ethical boundary? If not, where is that boundary?

Few things peak my interest anymore, but this has really blown my hat off, so to speak.

“We are dealing here with the vast question as to how we can and cannot know God, how we are related to God and how we can lose him. The arrogance that would make God an object and impose our laboratory conditions upon him is incapable of finding him. For it already implies that we deny God as God by placing ourselves above him, by discarding the whole dimension of love, of interior listening; by no longer acknowledging as real anything but what we can experimentally test and grasp. To think like that is to make oneself God. And to do that is to abase not only God, but the world and oneself, too.”

“Jesus of Nazareth” Papa Benedictus XVI, (p. 37)

It’s like a 2 year old playing with a nuclear weapon!

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!

mark

[quote=Mark77]“We are dealing here with the vast question as to how we can and cannot know God, how we are related to God and how we can lose him. The arrogance that would make God an object and impose our laboratory conditions upon him is incapable of finding him. For it already implies that we deny God as God by placing ourselves above him, by discarding the whole dimension of love, of interior listening; by no longer acknowledging as real anything but what we can experimentally test and grasp. To think like that is to make oneself God. And to do that is to abase not only God, but the world and oneself, too.”
[/quote]

I don’t see how this has anything to do with the topic.

Also, I fail to see how a synthetic cell could be ethical or unethical, it’s not an embryo, is it? The human body has about a bazillion cells.

It wouldn’t be a human embryo as far as I know. It seems to me that the issue would be whether or not human beings would be playing God, but we already manipulate life through medicine. Psychological medicine often looks to change the ways cells interact in our brains, re-wiring our behavior to some degree. I’m wondering what the Church has to say about an issue like this, because it seems like this could lead to a lot of good in the world - better medicine, for example.

As far as I can tell synthetic life is ethical.

But this opens a can of worms for those (conspiaracy) theorists who say we are merely creations of ETs. This is the first thing that crossed my mind anyway…

My first reaction was, “Awesome, this can have a ton of practical uses.”

I think it is ethical. The cell is a bacteria. It isn’t an animal even. I certianly wouldn’t support doing this with an embryo. The headline is sensational, but it really shouldn’t be a huge deal when you look at waht they did.

How this tech. is handled should be debated among scientists. It sounds like these cells couldd have good and bad uses.

It’s a little bit of hype too in my opinion. I mean, they needed the host cell - what is really synthetic is the genetic material.

Lots of potential uses and misuses for this technology I would imagine. It’s not so much the knowledge as the application that’s cause for concern.

Well, this organism is similar what human are doing to GMO crops. I thought man had created a completely new organism from scratch.

The act would be neutral, it would be the intent that would make it ethical or not. Do they use it cure Cancer? Will they charge $2M a cure for it while it only costs $500? Will they make it into a super virus that kills instantly? Will they turn it into a virus that instantly immobilizes a person but can be animated later?

This an immense breakthrough, now the sky is very much the limit, with this kind of technology who knows what could result, the inventor will become another Marie Curie, or another Oppenheimer

I don’t see how they have created life. All they have done is create a vehicle for life. Sort of like making a car. It’s inert until you put a living organism in it.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb said it best. "Man does not possess enough wisdom to be entrusted with knowledge."

This troubles me more than a little.

I recall reading about the “HELA” cells that contaminate just about every lab in the world. A woman named (I believe) Henrietta Lacks had, decades ago, a particularly virulent form of cancer. So, before her death, they took and cultured some of the cells for study. Cancer cells, of course, are, by their nature “new syntheses” of otherwise normal cells.

Those cells (Now called “HELA” cells after Henrietta Lacks) are so virulent that they contaminated the lab and everything that came into or went out of that lab. Genetic researchers all over the world, to this day, have to be careful or they will find that every culture ends up containing nothing but HELA cells, no matter how it starts out.

There are, of course, some who believe that diseases like HIV and Ebola and Marburg are new combinations or mutations. Maybe so, maybe not. But even with those, their DNA can be studied and are (at present) predictable in their configuration. So, when it comes to potential treatments and cures, at least there is some possibility of dealing with something fairly stable and whose characteristics, however deadly, are known.

But when scientists take snippets of DNA from here and recombine them and insert them in an egg from there, all without having any idea what its living characteristics might be, one has to wonder how they know they’re not creating another HELA; perhaps a HELA that has even worse consequences than contaminating petri dishes worldwide like the original HELA does.

According to scientific publications, the goal is to engineer bacteria, for example, that can produce fuel for cars, or engineer plants like algae to do the same. Then, there is the biological weapon problem: once some totally unethical scientists get their hands on this, they can and likely will engineer bacteria to kill people - that's the ethical concern.

Biological weapons have been with us a long time but they don't go boom like nuclear bombs.

God bless,
Ed

It really concerns me how every time I see this article posted somewhere, the headline always mentions something about a purely “artificial life” or purely “man made” organism, since it isn’t true that they created a new cell. They just took an existing cell and replaced all of its DNA. Why would such a major distortion of facts be so widespread amongst the so-called “professional” journalists? :shrug:

Also it seems like most of the time (not in this forum, but others) when I look at discussions of this I find that most of the people that comment didn’t even bother to read the whole article but just looked at the headline and took it at face value. So many excited atheists getting all wee-weed up (lolz :D) saying that man-made humans will be next and therefore disproving God.

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