Gene writing: Between art and nature

In the past, I have written a bit about genomics, synthetic biology and gene editing, from the perspective of language and culture. So, when Matthew Cobb alerted me to a new thing called ‘gene writing’ at the beginning of July, I pricked up my ears. I told myself that I should write a blog post …

Gene drives and Trojan horses: A tale of two metaphor uses

I was reading a recent article on gene drive entitled “Engineering bugs, resurrecting species: The wild world of synthetic biology for conservation” and came across this sentence about a so-called ‘Medea drive’: “This genetic Trojan Horse could then be used to spread elements that confer susceptibility to certain environmental factors, such as triggering the death …

Engineering biology? Sure! But which kind?

This is a guest post by Massimiliano Simons who is a postdoctoral researcher at the department of philosophy and moral sciences at Ghent University, Belgium. *** Biology is a mess, not only the natural processes out there but also the science in the lab. Every biological rule seems to have exceptions and all biological laboratories …

A road called ‘gene drive’ and the road to ‘gene drive’: Trials and tribulations of media analysis

As people might know, I enjoy doing media analysis of emerging biotechnologies, from cloning to gene editing and beyond. I have lately become fascinated with something called ‘gene drive’, a new genetic engineering technology that was brought to public attention around 2014/2015 at the confluence of two ‘events’: the outbreak of Zika and advances in CRISPR-Cas9 …

The microbe/gene drive communication confusion

Last week I wrote a post about how genetic modification and/or gene drive are used when managing disease transmitting insects. I want to come back to this topic today and talk about another difference, which, yet again, confused me. I hope that these efforts of disentangling stuff also help other people trying to understand and …

Metaphors, machines and the meaning of life

Machine metaphors are ubiquitous in biology, nowhere more so than in synthetic biology, a type of biology that is inspired by engineering and design. This has attracted the attention of metaphor analysts, but also of philosophers and ethicists. Various scholars, both from the humanities/social sciences and the life sciences have grappled with some of the …

Mice, dice and copycats: Metaphors for gene drives in mammals

When you hear the word ‘gene drive’, you will either be baffled or you will think about mosquitoes, engineered to eradicate insect-born disease like malaria, Dengue fever, or Zika for example. But gene drive research has now moved from insects to mammals. Mammals On the 23rd of January, researchers at University of California, San Diego, …