Imagine Nanotech

The ABCs of Biotech for Christians - Fifteenth in a series - N is for Nanotech

Goodbye drugs, hello light. That sums up the latest nanotech news that MRSA can be killed with nanoparticle photosensitizers. A few words of explanation:

Nano
A measurement like inches, but a nano is a billionth of a meter. A meter is 39.3701 inches, so a nanometer is 3.937e-8. It’s an exponent thing— most of us cannot do that math. But we can understand that with a scanning electron microscope or an atomic force microscope, it is possible to view life’s parts— cells, atoms, other— and these can only be measured in nanometers. Anything larger would not help to compute what is under consideration.
Nanoparticle
A particle is between 1 and 100 nanometers in size with a surrounding interfacial layer. That layer is part of the nanoscale matter, affecting all of its properties.
MRSA
The dreaded bacteria that grows unseen in nursing homes and is nearly impossible to be controlled or eradicated by antibiotics.
Nanoparticle photosensitizers
Mostly dye molecules, that become excited when illuminated with light. Then, the photosensitizers convert oxygen into reactive oxygen species that attack the bacteria.

That is a cursory view to a new nanotechnology that was discussed on August 19, 2018, at the National Expo of the American Chemical Society. To find out the latest nanotech news, visit Nanotech News.

Nanotech touches many more venues than biotech, the focus of this blog. Without it, biotech advances would be far less revolutionary. With it, discerning whether a discovery is an advance or regress is tricky. A discovery must be proven to be safe in a scaled up or real environment since the laws governing the nano environment are different from those in the “real” world.

Some quotes:

The field of nanotechnology has witnessed an explosion in research efforts over the past decade. Specific advances have been seen in nanotechnology applications to biomedicine that have revolutionized the way we view disease diagnosis and treatment, and tissue regeneration and repair... it is a very exciting time to work in the field of nanotechnology toward regenerative medicine... (ref)
Due to these emerging fields, rational design approaches to diagnosis, drug development, personalized medicine and point-of- care devices (POCDs) are possible. (ref)

The term bionanotechnology describes how scientists study life on a nano level to then mimic what they learn as they engineer therapies for health and medical needs.

But are these bioengineers on the horizon of a vast new paradise of mega advances in healing? Or at an impasse born of blind eyes to what they are seeing through their high-tech microscopes?

If a scientist believes that the complex structures and interactions in view at exponential magnifications are the result of evolution over millions of years of mutations and accidental progress, will he not view himself as brilliant for unraveling how these may be used to identify and restructure diseased cells and tissues? And if this leads to good outcomes will he not insist on applying all this knowledge to re-imagining the creature of which he has now a thoroughgoing understanding?

If, on the other hand, he marvels at the nano world made possible to see by instruments, not by his own physical capabilities, and realizes that it could only have been fashioned by an all-powerful, supreme being, then he will worship the Creator and take care not to change any of his perfect creation. He will strive only to heal and correct mutations that have occurred because of sin in the world, but he will have no desire to improve man in the sense of changing his likeness made in the image of God.

To A Mouse in 2018

The ABCs of Biotech for Christians - Fourteenth in a series - M is for Mice

As early as the 16th century the lowly mouse was used in scientific experiments. Today, approximately 95 percent of all laboratory animals are mice and rats. This video (only a minute) explains why mice are so useful in biotech research.

PETA says there are 100 million mice and rats used in lab experiments each year in the USA. A certain number of these are cloned, but that may not make you feel happier for the mice.

Mice… “are remarkable tools.”

A quick look at the list of Nobel prizes for medicine confirms their contribution: discovery of sulphonamides in 1939; penicillin, 1945; yellow fever vaccine, 1951; polio vaccine, 1954; cellular origin of retroviral oncogenes, 1989; HIV-Aids virus, 2008; not to mention prions in 1997. Each time mice played a key part. In the 1980s nearly one-in-three Nobel prizes for medicine were awarded to work on mice. …In genetics, cancer, immune response, embryonic and nervous systems and infectious diseases … in short in most fields, mice are valuable…

Alongside the success stories are accounts of expensive failures. (ibid) After all, mice are not human, so to view them as replicating aspects of our physiology in drawing conclusions for medicine and therapies does have limitations.

To overcome these, mice are altered to allow biotech researchers to better try out models for cures or to better understand the disease or anomaly under review. There are various ways to alter a mouse:

  • Breeding can enhance a particular trait for study
  • Mouse DNA can be modified to edit out a section or gene so that the mouse can be examined for its response to a drug based on its lack of a certain gene. Or, specific DNA can be activated for testing.
  • Mice can be genetically modified by introducing a gene in the germ stage (petri dish) of its reproduction so that it is “transgenic” and expresses human genes. Thus, it has become a new kind of creature. It is no longer a mouse.

Last week a number of news stories reported that the US FDA has signed a contract to purchase fresh human baby parts from aborted fetuses so that they can be transplanted into mice for research projects. The FDA notice stated, “Fresh human tissues are required for implantation into severely immune-compromised mice to create chimeric animals that have a human immune system.”

The slope is slippery. Three summers ago a national scandal erupted with videos published one week at a time beginning in July by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), proving that Planned Parenthood (PP) contracted with biotech companies to supply body parts from aborted babies for research needs. The parts were sold for $50 to $100 or ?, who knows. This was presented by PP as money for necessary expenses in procuring the “tissue.” PP technicians were paid a bonus for intact specimens. It is against the law to sell or acquire human body parts for profit. (PP’s net assets in 2017 were $1.6 billion.)

legal rules for sales of human body parts

The public was stunned. Political action was demanded and some legislators sought answers from PP. The CMP videos proved that abortions were being performed to retain the integrity of certain organs, though this changed the procedure described in advance to the woman.

The method of suctioning out the fetus that destroyed recognizable parts was changed to removal by other means to retain the liver or thymus, for example. The women were asked to sign off on the plan to use their baby's body parts but were not remunerated. In other words, the money they pay for abortion helps to pay for the research done by biotech companies in need of fresh human tissue. The biotech investors no doubt really appreciate their generous contribution.

It would seem that all of the difficult undercover work of the CMP was for nought.

Robert Burns’ To A Mouse comes to mind, only quoting the final two stanzas:

…But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

Angel fish bild.JPG
Public Domain, Link

...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1

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A SistersSite eBook

Flesh and Bone and The Protestant Conscience is an e-book on Amazon.com. It is 99¢ and in the Amazon lending library as well. It is also available here in PDF format. The book description follows.

Would you let your conscience be your guide?

Does God care if the skin and bone of the dead are passed along to the living for medical uses? Is organ donation OK with God? Should you sign a Living Will?

Did you know that dead organ donors are often anesthetized before their organs are removed? Do you know the current definition of death? The conscience cannot function without facts.

As we ponder the ethics of in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and man-made chimeras, our thoughts trail off. How then should we live? (Ez 33:10)

How should a Christian think about euthanasia by starvation when doctors and the state attorney general all agree it is time to withhold feeding from a brain injured patient? Some things are family matters, but someday it may be our family.

Here is a small book to help you think about whether you want to sign your driver's license, donate a kidney, cremate your loved one, and many other practical questions that may arise in the course of your healthcare decisions or watch over others.

It offers a special focus on the doctrine of the Resurrection that is related to such decisions. Sunday School classes and Bible Study groups could use this book to facilitate discussion about the issues covered.