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Biotechnology

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The future of BIOTECHNOLOGY, HEALTH & MEDICAL

Medicine/PsychologyEdit

  • Customized foods treat specific medical conditions.
  • Identification of the genetic links of most diseases.
  • Understanding of the biochemical mechanisms and environmental interactions of most diseases.
  • Widespread use of genetic screening.
  • Enhancement of physical and mental abilities through genetic engineering, beyond simply curing diseases disease.
  • Full personal medical records stored on smart card. Very comprehensive records, complete with genome, life history, interview recordings, videos of operations...
  • Increased life span and quality of life. More people will live into their 80s in good health.
  • Home (health) diagnostic systems, daily/real time check-up via radio. Home AI based elderly and handicapped support devices
  • (Nanotechnology) Devices roaming within blood vessels under own power, diagnosing and fixing some problems. timescale? Precedents?
  • A cure for cancer
  • Artificial organs: ears, eyes, legs, lungs, hearts, pancreas, livers, kidneys, blood, etc...
  • Advanced prosthetics: legs, arms, hands, etc... Biological/Technological hybrids

PsychologyEdit

  • Understanding of the genetic, chemical and physiological foundations of human behaviour. Better control and treatment of mental disorders.
  • The ability to influence emotions, learning, senses, memory and other psychological phenomena through brain and mind manipulation.

MaterialsEdit

  • Engineered organisms that produce commodities, medicines and complex chemicals, or handle waste disposal, agricultural processing and environmental management.

EnvironmentEdit

  • Effective management of the organic environment. We will know the genomes of most plant and animal groups. We will be able to manage gene pools effectively, and also control their populations. (what does this mean?)
  • Widespread genetic intervention programs for animals and plants. Genetic enhancement techniques will be applied to wild and domestic organisms, including pets.
  • Many new forms of genetically-engineered plants and animals ("GMO").


Human AugmentationEdit

  • Sensors directly connected to the human nervous system. Artificial nerves, artificial senses linked directly to the brain.
  • Direct stimulation of the pleasure centers of the brain.
  • Artificial ears, eyes, legs, lungs, hearts, pancreas, liver, kidneys, blood - augmented in various ways, e.g liver to better metabolise Alcohol (more Alcohol Dehydrogenase), for welders, eyes incorporating higher levels of photo-sensitive UV filter chromophores.
  • Biomanufacturing is biotechnology [1] that makes things. Biological things, such as skin, organs in the body, or even beer. And mechanical things, such as batteries. There are already limited examples of both.

Scientific Access: There is a movement right now to make Biotechnology publications more "open."

Manufacturing: There is some limited biomanufacturing:

Expectations.

There are arguments (between Drexler, and a biologist; need link) about whether people will make nanotechnology that beats biology. Consider the wheel, which was not produced in nature. Consider the eye, which still (as of 2007) has better dynamic range and lower power than any artificial camera.

There are calls for open source biotechnology:

Amateur biotechnology seems plausible, and there appears to be a will:

  • DNA Hack
  • DNA seen through the eyes of a coder
  • CAMBIA project -- the CAMBIA project will sell you TransBactor strains & vectors for $20
    • you use it to transfer genes to a plant cell, though I don't know what other equipment is required.
  • Open Source Biology and it's Impact on Industry
    • "Considerable information is already available on how to manipulate and analyze DNA in the kitchen. A recent Scientific American Amateur Scientist column provided instructions for amplifying DNA through the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and a previous column dealt with analyzing DNA samples on homemade electrophoresis equipment. The discussion was immediately picked up in a slashdot.org thread where participants provided tips for improving the yield of the PCR process."
    • "It is already possible to synthesize sufficient DNA to build a bacterial genome from scratch in a few weeks using chemical means."

One very interesting idea, is: Remote Biology Labs.

The paper describes the educational and experimental opportunities that are available when you have a fully automated (robotic) biology lab that people can use over the Internet. A 13 year old could remotely issue the commands to perform some sort of genetic "Hello World" experiment.

One advantage is that conceivably, regulators can observe all the experiments that take place, and limit the possibilities of harmful contagion by limiting physical access to and from the lab.

The paper notes that with time, biology labs will probably be refined and miniaturized.

(See also: Rainbow's End, which features a lab just like this. A major effort is undertaken, to subvert a lab.)


Notes:

Some people expect that

"Considerable information is already available on how to manipulate and analyze DNA in the kitchen. A recent Scientific American Amateur Scientist column provided instructions for amplifying DNA through the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and a previous column dealt with analyzing DNA samples on homemade electrophoresis equipment. The discussion was immediately picked up in a slashdot.org thread where participants provided tips for improving the yield of the PCR process." "It is already possible to synthesize sufficient DNA to build a bacterial genome from scratch in a few weeks using chemical means." Open Source Biology and it's Impact on Industry by Rob Carlson, in 2001

    • Bioterrorism is a very real possibility.
      • What has it cost in the past?
    • Where will we likely be?
    • What does it take, today, to genetically engineer a virus?
      • What base materials are needed?
      • What lab equipment is required?
      • What generalist and specialist knowledge is required?
    • Relevant Links?
      • Remote Biology Labs -- describes the present, and outlines a future, for home manufacturing; recommends robotic remote biology labs for educational use in the near to mid-term future
      • Technology Review: The Knowledge -- on Russian progress (still unsurpassed), efforts to weaponize biotechnology; see also: Assessing the Threat -- which emphasises that only states could do this, today
      • DNA seen through the eyes of a coder -- this is an example of hobbyist analysis of biotechnology; it's rudamentary, but you can see that the will is there

Virus assembly Edit

Genetic EngineeringEdit

Near-term gene therapies Edit

There are many potential markets for advanced gene therapies and treatment of deseases is just a small subset. Other potential uses include:

  • therapy that turns hair growth back on in balding men
  • a therapy that can turn menstruation on and off without menopause
  • a therapy for breast growth, making implants obsolete
  • for adding muscle mass without working out
  • for dissolving unwanted fat tissues
  • and, of course, the 'fountain of youth' itself for the disease of old age

Timeline Edit

Genetic engineering extra eyes, fur or tentacles? Neat.

Genetic engineering

  • First (now-2015) we will see more smart drugs, i.e. drugs increasingly designed based on understanding on how genes and proteins work and not just random hit-and-miss experiments with organic molecules. It will become increasingly possible to regulate the human metabolism using the THIRD way (i.e. not neural or hormonal, but artificial drug-induced way). Things like Viagra, working drugs for losing (not gaining) weight, nootropic drugs, etc.
  • Then (2015-2025) we are going to see first health-related genetic modifications. As e.g. Naam describes in his book, there are several ways to modify ourselves - inject the protein (drug - see above), add the DNA into the cell (noninsertional vectors) or into the nucleus (insertional). By that time we will strongly feel the fallout from the Human Genome project, understanding a signficant part of the complex genetic chemistry. First we are going to change the DNA to fix the health defects, removing bad genes or fixing them.
  • At the same time we will have genetic treatments in competitive sport (Olympics) to enhance the strength, endurance, etc. Some say that first such treatments are already being used. Each next Olympics will have more and more and by 2016 a very large portion of athletes will be using some form of genetic enhancement.
  • By that time (mid-2010s) we will have some cyborgisation in healthy humans going on. Chips for interacting with the electronic environment, some enhanced senses (e.g. cochlear implants for healthy people). Enhancement surgery will be growing in popularity (things like LASIK, muscle surgery, lots of cosmetic surgery and a bit more advanced stuff). The "traditional" body modification techniques will be gradually improving. Everything that is cool today will be already passe and retro. Hard to predict these things, since they are irrational and random to a large extent like all fashion is. But one may speculate about subdermal displays, limited neuro-electronic connectivity (i.e. "implanted remotes"). Disabled people will have their artificial hands, legs, eyes and stuff in increasing numbers. But we still won't see genetically modified people with tentacles, except in a few freaks, like the leet body modders today (however, even those would probably opt for surgery + drugs, not full-scale GE).
  • Starting from about 2015 we will spend more and more time in both virtual and augmented reality. We will be more and more comfortable with modifying our appearance in arbitrary ways, spending time in animal bodies (even though only virtually), etc.

By, say, 2020 we (at least the early adopters, not luddites) will be controlling our metabolism artificially, using a combination of implanted automatic smart drug-release devices and genetic therapies. There will be a few cases when humans will be enhanced significally changing their genetic code, when this can be done in a very safe manner and without side effects (this might come from one of the sports modifications). The parents will have great freedom in defining the DNA code of their kids to get rid of all bad stuff and ensure that good stuff is there, but no fins or fur yet. We will also have many artificial parts and will spend a lot of time in virtual worlds.

  • Around 2020-2025 we will see the spread of biotechnologies to the general population. We will also have desktop fabrication labs by then (and robots), some pretty useful (but not fully mature) nanotech (to compliment the biotech that we are talking about). We will have some good AI (but not human-level), so a lot of R&D will be possible to do using existing software. Software methodologies will be more advanced than today, so ordinary people will be able to get digital designs for a bio-lab, assemble it using their (may be not personally owned) desktop fab lab, get the information databases with genetic and other biological information and synthesise the DNA.
  • There are likely to be some regulatory issues by than. Both scaremongers and responsible scientists/politicians will demand some control mechanisms and some will definitely be established, but we can also expect bio-hackers (and pirates) to emerge. There will obviously be a gradient - if some people are doing legit body-modifications (like people in tattoo/piercing parlors today), they can add a bit of illicit modifications, provide access to illegal drugs (controlled substances) without prescriptions (like offshore Internet pharmacies today), etc. This may end up looking a little bit like the cyberpunk predictions (e.g. traditional Gibsonesque cyberpunk).
  • In 2025-2030 people will start to notice the exponential technological growth. Kids born in 2010 will be getting through their teenage phase (modified using mind-enhancing drugs, but not enough to turn them into obedient zombies). They will probably be the first to use the technology in radical ways. The transplantation industry would be mature by that time, with millions of transplantations performed every year - cloned parts, xenotransplants, artificial organs, etc. Stem cells would also be used to grow new organs (in vitro and in vivo). So it would be quite easy to do heavy cyborg and biological body-mods with little risk (and almost zero risk of serious complications that can't be fixed). As much as I am uncomfortable with that (today), more and more people will be experimenting with heavily modified bodies. Genetic engineering will be used in conjunction with surgery. We will also have the ability to direct body reconstruction - first selective apoptosis, then generation of stem cells and regrowth of the organs/tissues. This will obviously first be used for corrections, but eventually for rebuilding the body for other reasons.
  • By that time technologies for genetic engineering will be widespread and accessible. Software products would exist (not in the form of products, but downloadable routines, AI modules) that can be used easily. By 2030 most people will have the ability to design new organisms from scratch and change their own bodies at will. My imagination is betraying me a bit, but when walking (or otherwise moving) on the street (or the future analogue of it) you will see people of different colours (including pink, orange and striped yellow-green), people with fur, people with animated skin, people with various additional parts (combs, spikes, etc.) added for aesthetic reasons, people with various face adjustments ("unnatural" eyes, nose, lips, teeth, etc.), people with parts of them resembling animal parts (feline eyes, etc.).
  • By that time the society will likely change enough to make these things not only more acceptable, but in a sense expected. Mind-enhancement techniques, significant social changes will mean that there won't be conservative job-places that don't let you come to work with wings and horns. Many people will not be working in the traditional sense, but living life in more creative ways, while the society/nature supplies them with necessities.
  • The precise nature of the future society in regards to the look of its members will depend on an unpredictable factor - the relative success of different development approaches. It is clear that virtual reality, cyborgisation and genetic engineering will all provide almost unlimited possibilities for human expression. But which of the three methods will be more populat (at certain point) is hard to predict, because it depends on which one will be more advanced, more efficient, safer, cheaper, more available, easier to use, etc. It is likely that all methods will complement each other to some extent, but personally I am not ready to predict with certainty whether the society of 2030 will consist mostly of people inhabiting VR worlds, robots walking the streets or mutated chimeras flying and swimming around...

Predictions by Brian Wang:

  • 2010-2014 - Customized cells
  • 2011-2016 - 20%+ efficient genetically engineered algae ponds to generate hydrogen
  • 2015-2025 - Almost all fish (for food) comes from massive ocean ranches (over 100 ranches, each larger than a cubic mile in area)
  • 2010-2020 - Future Crime: Genetic modification of baby DNA to pass false paternity lawsuit

See also Edit

This is a factual article as opposed to fiction or scenario. It describes the current state of the field and explains expected future developments without speculation or fantasy.

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