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Understanding Life in an Age of Synthetic Biology: Final Group Project


Brainwire Brain

on 24 April 2012

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Transcript of Understanding Life in an Age of Synthetic Biology: Final Group Project

1. Introduction to Synthetic Biology
2. Introduction to Synthetic Neurobiology
3. Possible developments
Medical application
Commercial application
Political application Content Understanding Life in an Age of Synthetic Biology:
Final Group Project
Brainwire Introduction to SynBio Design, manipulate and
construct new biological parts
Genes, pathways, genomes
Biology, engineering and
computing! Biological knowledge and techniques Engineering – standardisation Computing
– sequencing, genomics
and modelling Introduction to Synthetic
Neurobiology How does it work? Normal brain doesn’t respond to light
A species of green algae has an eye
spot that senses light and converts light
into electricity •These eye spots contain proteins that
generate little electrical pulses when
they are hit by light Can we use it to control a neuron
(which works in the same way by
receiving and sending electrical pulses)??? Electrical pulses Electrical pulses Infect a mouse with the virus
Take a light source and connect it
directly to the mouse’s brain •The mouse goes to point A, a pulse of
light is being delivered to the pleasure
•The mouse goes to point B, no pulse of
light is being delivered to the pleasure area
•The mouse prefers to go to point A
•Program a virus that can travel
to specific neurons in the brain and
deposit the light sensitive molecules
(e.g. an area that mediate rewards
and pleasure) What can we do about it? •beam light all over the brain in a 3D pattern
•turning on / off the circuits that are involved with emotions, decision making, sensations and actions.
MIND CONTROL !? Possible Future Developments Medical application
- Parkinsonism

Commercial application
- Package for improving different ability

Political application
- Brainwashing Medical Application Non-curable brain diseases -
•the pars compacta of the substantia nigra undergoes progressive neuronal degeneration; eosinophilic inclusion bodies (Lewy bodies) develop. These contain protein filaments of ubiquitin and α-synuclein.
•Degeneration also occurs in other basal ganglia nuclei. There is loss of dopamine (and melanin) in the striatum. Parkinsonism Muhammad Ali Tremor, rigidity & slowness
(akinesia) “float like a butterfly sting like a bee” Parkinsonism Treatment Problem with treatment Side effects:
•Unwanted involuntary movements
Levodopa becomes ineffective gradually
after several years even with increasing
dose Problem with treatment •Drugs entering the blood stream don’t just interfere with neurons with defects
•Other normal neurons are also affected
•Giving side effects Treatment •The viruses programmed deposit these special proteins to specific impaired neurons
•Only impaired neurons are controlled but not the normal ones
=> Much less or NO side effects
•Impaired neurons are turned on/off whenever needed
=> Duration of effect lasts longer Other diseases.... •Epilepsy
•Alzheimer’s disease
and many more…… Commercial Application Ability improving packages Different areas in brain control different abilities of human beings
Introduce light sensitive molecules to certain area in brain
Use light to specifically stimulate that certain area
By frequent and constant stimilation
--> Improve certain ability
(e.g. art, intelligence, sports, etc.) Introduction Light sensitive molecules can be introduced through injection or pills
Different packages contain different viruses travelling to different destination in brain
Different ability improvement
Form of packages Product portfolio and discounts People buying more packages can enjoy more discounts.
Tailor-made service may be provided too. Horace Chan
Celeste Cheung
James Law Ethical problem
Widen the rich-and-poor gap
Affect evolution mechanism
Side effects? Potential risks Benefits Won't affect the future generation
Able to change some people's lives
Turned the world better by groups of brilliant people.
Political Application Brainwashing 2052 2060 2053 Politics: 2052 •UK: Dangerous criminals: optogenetic
•Motor neurons switched off in response to
light of particular wavelength
‘Avoid escape and easier track-down •Political scandal
•Independent US presidential Mr. Weisman candidate received DIYBio surgery to increase intelligence.
•Blackberry Politics: 2053 •Conference on DIYBio Development and Regulations
•Important agenda in International Synthetic Biology Conferences 2057 Politics: 2057 •North Korea replaces Nuclear
Programme with Biology Research
•Rumours of baby vaccination to
introduce synthetic protein to
memory neurones Politics: 2060 •Grassroots political movement: Free The Brain
•2060: UN considers ‘Freedom of the Brain’ as
part of the Human Rights Charter
•Moratorium on academic research of synthetic neurobiology The End Thank you! Question and Answer
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