For the first time in human history we have control over our biological destinies by using powerful genetic engineering technologies. What is genetic engineering and how has it affected our lives and society? The class will explore the basic concepts of genetic engineering and its applications in medicine, law, and agriculture. The goal of this class is to put genetic engineering into a scientific and historic perspective so that we can make objective decisions about how this technology should be used in the future.
Questions that will be addressed include: How are genes isolated, reprogrammed, and put back into living cells in order to change their genetic destiny? How has genetic engineering helped push back the frontiers of basic knowledge, created a multi-billion dollar biotechnology industry, and become part of our daily lives? Who owns our genes and can they be patented? How has our ability to manipulate DNA changed our concepts of privacy and made an impact on the criminal justice system? What federal and state laws govern our ability to manipulate living organisms, and what does the Constitution say about science? What is the potential for using genetic engineering to create and combat bioweapons? How is genetic engineering being used to create the livestock and crops of tomorrow? What are the ethical issues related to producing genetically engineered food and powerful new drugs? How does genetic engineering affect the lives of people in the developing world and offer great benefits for their well being in the future? What are the implications of using genetic engineering to diagnose and cure diseases as well as enhance human life?
I will use lectures, films, and discussions to provide a basic understanding of how genetic engineering is carried out and what societal issues are raised by the use of this powerful technology. We will trace the history of genetic engineering technology, learn about the scientists who invented gene splicing techniques, and read Scientific American papers that describe first-hand how genetic engineering has changed our lives. We will also engage in debates about the ethical and societal issues that have arisen as a result of genetic engineering technology and act these debates out in "docudramas" to make them come alive. At the end of the class, students will have the opportunity to have a "real-life" SRP experience in my laboratory using many of the genetic engineering technologies that they have read about and discussed.