From the President

By Waller, Pat | The American Biology Teacher, September 2007 | Go to article overview

From the President


Waller, Pat, The American Biology Teacher


Dear Biology Educator,

By the time you receive this issue of ABT, you will be back in the swing of things in your classrooms. How did you begin your classes? As I sit here in July, I am thinking about how I would use the exciting biology news published in late June. A headline in The New York Times announce "Scientists Transplant Genome of Bacteria." More dramatically, The Wall Street Journal headline was "J. Craig Venter's Next Goal: Creating New Life. Both of these articles were describing the research published in the June 29, 2007 edition of Science titled "Genome Transplantation in Bacteria: Changing One Species to Another."

It was the headline in The Wall Street Journal that caught my attention. The article was especially interesting because the author described the commercial potential of these techniques: "Dr. Veiner hopes to eventually manipulate the organism to create biofuels or absorb carbon dioxide." These are exciting prospects in a time when fuels and the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide are topics of newscasts.

The biology of the technique and the significance of the process will probably be the topics of discussion in your classes. Does this process require a new look at classification? Will the announcement of this technique help you to show the importance of learning about biotechnology to your students? Will biologists need a new definition of a living organism?

I think the classroom discussion will focus oil what is necessary to produce the fully functional organism referred to in the Wall Street Journal headline. According to the author, the essential process is finding a way for a synthetically-made genome to cause the life processes. The reported work used it bacterial cell, inserting a genome from one species of bacterium into the cell of a different species. This is not the manufacturing of a living thing, but it major change from one species to another.

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