Team:Imperial College London/Ethics


II09 EthicsThumb.pngHuman Practices

    When designing our 2009 iGEM drug delivery system The E.ncapsulator, we were faced with the issue of ingesting genetically modified organisms. In fact, our system uses Escherichia coli to produce a curative polypeptide. The bacteria then auto-encapsulate in a coat of sugars which will subsequently allow the produced polypeptides to arrive intact to the gut. The third module is when the bacteria over-express a set of restriction enzymes. This has the effect of killing the bacteria because their DNA is destroyed. Without their DNA, the bacteria are unable to produce the proteins that enable them to survive and they therefore die, leaving behind a bag full of the curative polypeptides.
    This third module was consciously added to the E.ncapsulator system in order to ensure that no living, genetically modified bacteria would be ingested. This module was the result of discussion among the team about the issues surrounding genetically engineered organisms, their ingestion and the risks involved.

    However, our human practices project doesn't stop there. In fact, we have recorded video interviews (scroll down) of the members of the team and written two documents looking at the following three themes:
    1. The importance of making science understandable for a large audience
    2. What are the materials engineered in Synthetic Biology?
    3. Risk and responsibility of Synthetic Biology and the importance of dialogue between science and society



Many thanks go to Caitlin for all the support she has given us and for the seminar she organised. Thanks also go to Guillaume for the interesting thoughts he brought.

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