Friday, January 21, 2011

Centralized synthetic biology for the community

Build a "fun" framework that would attract lots of young minds to ask interesting questions, engineer biological cells to answer those questions, and easily share their results and explanations with each other.

1. providing the education to the masses... but I have some hope that young people are quite good are educating themselves, given the motivation
2. Resource
3. Safety

Possible solution:
One or two well maintained centralized robots with a fun interface for entering experiments and storing/visualizing the results. This is very much possible, except that it is expensive. But if the benefit is large enough, it is possible that government and/or companies might solve that issue.

But if such a programmable robot existed as a resource, I can imagine numerous researchers wanting to try new experiments and test new hypotheses. Since the data is centralized, there is a built-in benefit of data-integration, i.e. finding relationships between multiple experiments and drawing conclusions based on large number of experiments. It would be like a Facebook for biological experiments: everyone wants to dump their favorite hypothesis on it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Exercise as a general solution to living systems

I heard the statement a couple of times that places in this world with more cleanliness tend to have more auto-immune illnesses such as allergies. One can imagine that the immune system also needs to "exercise" from time to time, just like the muscles in our body or the brain.

What if "exercise" is a more general theme? Perhaps every pathway in a living system needs some form of exercise (but not too much, of course). What if the error-checking mechanisms and all the other anti-cancer mechanisms in our body also need exercise... perhaps we can cure cancer by exercising anti-cancer pathways. Exercise against cancer would be very tricky. It would require producing small controllable (or self-limiting) tumors in our body from time to time. By doing so, the hypothesis is that the body's anti-cancer pathways would remain alert (well exercised). This might make the body better prepared against the real cancer or tumor.

The same theme of exercise can perhaps be applied to achieve other goals, e.g. directed evolution of microbes.