2. The Ethics of Biotechnology
Everyday we are bombarded with media hype and frenzy about advances in genetic engineering and the potential impact on our lives. This course could be designed to educate the non-science major in the scientific aspects of biotechnology and to be savvy to the information and situations facing all of us as we encounter genetically altered food, insects, bacteria and people. Once the scientific facts have been presented, the pros and cons of biotechnology will be discussed and students will be encouraged to formulate their own opinions regarding the ethical impacts of these advances.
A potential text is The Cloning Sourcebook, A.J. Klotzko, Oxford University Press, 2001.
From Library Journal:
"Are scientists playing God? Can a human being be cloned? If so, what are the ethical and legal consequences? This sourcebook supplies some needed information and sober perspective on this broad subject. Klotzko (Ctr. for Bioethics, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Inst. of Medical Ethics, Univ. of Edinburgh) has arranged the 27 essays in four sections: "The Science of Cloning," "The Context of Cloning," "The Ethical Issues," and "The Policy Issues." Contributors are academics, researchers, and administrators from the United States and England. One of this book's virtues is that it aims not to indoctrinate but to inform; consequently, diverse points of view are presented. Because it provides a representative snapshot of science and opinion on cloning, this book is essential for academic libraries. The editor welcomes general readers, but some essays may be too dense to attract a wide audience."
Gregg Sapp, Science Lib., SUNY at Albany
This laboratory experience could evolve into a multi-semester, cross disciplinary endeavor for students seeking a more in-depth exposure to biochemistry, molecular biology, bioinformatics, genetics, physical and organic chemistry. The course will be centered on the identification, cloning, purification, kinetic analysis and inhibition of a single enzyme in a hypothesis-driven, research style environment [1-4].
Currently I have been exploring the properties of cystathionine b-lyase (CBL) a bacterial enzyme catalyzing the penultimate step in the pyridoxyl 5'-phosphate (PLP) dependent hydrolysis of L-cystathionine to L-homocysteine, pyruvate and ammonia  (Scheme 1). There is a strong clinical correlation between defects in the mammalian homologue, cystathionine g-lyase, and the formation of arteriosclerotic plaques . This observation could make the course attractive to the numerous students interested in medical research or medical practice.
One advantage of working with cystathionine b-lyase in a laboratory setting is the enzymatic reactions are robust, reproducible and can be monitored in real time by visible spectroscopy . Having a functional kinetics assay at the core of this course will allow the students to explore additional aspects of enzymology including purification (affinity versus size exclusion chromatography), mutations (molecular biology, bioinformatics applications), active site modeling, reaction mechanisms and inhibition (molecular modeling, organic chemistry).
In collaboration with Professor Joe Chihade at Carleton College, we have begun the initial cloning and isolation of CBL from E. coli. Dr. Chihade plans to debut his version of a similar experimental course in the spring of 2005. This initial trial will serve as a springboard for my proposed offering of Enzymology in the fall of 2005. This course can compliment the existing Experimental Biochemistry course, provide needed relief to this overloaded section and contribute to the Biomolecular Science concentration.