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Programmable cells

I was reading my daily Science articles and came across a very interesting article titled,An ‘Operating System’ That Runs on Cells Could Create Whole New Life Forms. It is about how scientists are working to develop reprogrammable cells. These cells could then be programmed to do a whole bunch of useful tasks. There goal is to get a working  programmable cell so that the field of synthetic biology can take off as a larger field of science. If the field takes off then scientists will be able to get to work on cells that can “clean up unwanted carbon from the air, pull pollutants from drinking water, attack pathogens inside the human body, and protect food sources from agricultural pests.” My thought is this, though. Would it be possible to design a programmable virus that is immune to vaccines and that can be controlled in how it spreads. People could use this technology for bad and spread an evil ultimate that is unstoppable. I know the chances are slim but it could happen. What are your thoughts on how this technology could be applied? Is there any sort of downsides that you guys could see to a technology like this?

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  1. November 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    It is true that the chances are very slim but I agree with you. Whenever I hear programmable cells come up I end up thinking of the movie I Am Legend where a huge disease spread when someone believed that they came up with the cure for cancer. They’re not really related, but it makes me think of that.
    If these cells can do those positive things like remove pests and pollutants that would be great, but don’t you think governments and firms might start to get greedy with their cells and try and do too much with them? This is what could lead to an unstoppable virus. I know it seems pretty crazy but I think it is plausible.
    To be honest, I do not see these type of cells taking off any time in the near future due to the nature of politics and the funding and support something like this would require. Ideas like this seem in theory to be great but always end up having a flaw. These cells could possibly put real humans out of jobs as well, and so I don’t think politically that this characteristic would be a very popular one either.

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