Written Assignment: Biology and Technology in the Real World

1. Select one of the topics listed below (a-e).

2. Find at least three scholarly information sources related to the topic (i.e., primary scientific research articles, .gov, .edu, and/or some .org [stick with big organizations, such as the Mayo Clinic or WHO]; avoid .com websites). You can find assistance with searching for articles at the UMUC Library Subject Guides at http://libguides.umuc.edu/science.

3. Write a paper with title page, introduction, several paragraphs addressing the questions, conclusion and references. You must write in your own words and paraphrase information (and include proper APA in-text citations) from the selected information sources, addressing each of the questions for your chosen topic. Your paper should consist of less than 10% direct quotes. Your paper should be at least 1000 words, excluding references and title page. Use APA style for

a) Stem cells. Your friend has suffered a spinal cord injury after a bad car accident. The medical team has decided that he is a good candidate for a clinical trial using stem cell therapy. Your friend has not had a biology course since high school, so you decide to write him/her a letter sharing your knowledge of stem cells. Include in your letter a description of the biology of stem cells and how these cells are unique from other cells. Compare and contrast the different types of stem cells, including pros and cons for each type. Explain how stems cells can be used to treat diseases and injury, with special focus on spinal cord injuries. Include information regarding the use of stem cells for spinal cord injury from at least one research study or clinical trial. Conclude with your own thoughts/opinion.

b) Genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A friend tells you that she avoids foods containing GMOs because they are unhealthy. You decide to use the knowledge gained from your biology class and some additional research to form your own opinion on GMOs. Answer the following questions backed up by scholarly information sources (note: .com websites are generally NOT scholarly, and avoid biased organizations such as nongmoproject.org). What is the purpose of genetically engineering crop plants and domestic animals? How are GMOs created? Use the provided course materials and make a connection to the central dogma of molecular biology in your explanation. Which foods in your supermarket contain GMOs? Include at least 2 specific examples of commonly produced GMO foods (make sure to discuss the modification(s) each contains). Based on the available (scientific) research, are foods that contain GMOs safe for human consumption? What are the pros and cons of GMO foods? Who are the governing bodies and what types of regulations exist for these foods? Clearly explain your reasoning (backed up with scientific evidence) for each answer and keep it impartial. In your conclusion, state whether or not you agree with your friend.

c) Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) has been the most recent breakthrough discovery in bioengineering that enables scientists to edit DNA. Because you have studied biology in this course, you have volunteered at your niece’s Middle School Science Club to monitor a student debate about CRISPR. The students will be watching the following video before the discussion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=252&v=2pp17E4E-O8 and you need to be prepared in case there are any questions. Please research and write an answer to each of the following questions: What is “CRISPR”? What role does Cas9 play in the CRISPR process? How does the CRISPR-Cas9 system snip and replace any DNA sequence? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of gene editing? Include specific examples. Do you believe that the inherent risks of modifying animal DNA are worth the rewards? Explain. Do you believe that it is ethical to genetically engineer humans and/or animals? Explain.

d) Vaccines. Your friend is worried about the many vaccines that his newborn son is scheduled to receive and asks you for advice since you are taking a biology course. Start with an explanation of how vaccines work. Next, discuss the traditional methods used to create vaccines compared to the more recently used biotechnology techniques (this is not a discussion of the types of vaccines, rather how were vaccines produced when they first came out and how are they produced now) and what are advantages and disadvantages of each. Then list some of the diseases that babies and children in the US are routinely vaccinated against and discuss how vaccinations have impacted the frequency of these diseases over the past 100 years. Why are some people worried about giving their children vaccines? Is there scientific evidence to support these concerns (please discuss at least one scientific study that supports or refutes the current claims)? Conclude with advice to your friend in regard to getting the recommended vaccines based on what you learned from reliable information sources.

e) Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and tar sands (oil sands). With society’s dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels, the oil & gas industry is turning to hydraulic fracturing and tar (oil) sands to extract natural gas and oil.  A friend asks you “What’s all this controversy in the news about fracking and tar sands?” Briefly explain to your friend how hydraulic fracturing and tar (oil) sands are used to obtain these fossil fuels. Then, in more detail, describe the environmental problems that may result from these processes and why they are controversial. Issues that should be addressed include water, air and soil pollution with special focus on global climate change, effects on human health, and effects on other species and natural ecosystems. Finally, give your opinions on possible solutions to these environmental problems, with your reasoning backed by information from reliable information sources.