Science as a Human Endeavour: XPORT (Application/Limitation (What does…
Science as a Human Endeavour: XPORT
Communities and Teams
U.S. Army Research Laboratory
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Laboratory University Collaborative Initiative (LUCI)
Made to accelerate Department of Defence laboratory innovation with collaborative work as well as connecting leading scientists across America.
The Office of the Secretary Defence as part of LUCI; the priority being to accelerate U.S. Department of Defence laboratory innovation by connecting leading scientists to collaborate across the nation.
It was recognised that the high maturation rate in synthetic biology meant that collaboration throughout the broader scientific community would be necessary to take advantage of revolutionary advances and to make any influences to how things are done at all.
Part of the Department of Defence synthetic biology program called Living Machines.
XPORT was used to make undomesticated bacteria exhibit previously undocumented characteristics, successfully proving that undomesticated bacteria were able to be manipulated.
Application in trials of this method were in modified Bacillus subtilis bacterium, called XPORT, which were used to great effect in synthetic biology.
Aim: What is the long-term vision?
To engineer microorganisms to promote human and plant health, and as an extension of engineering organisms- to allow the integration of more responsive and reactive functions into military environments such as self-healing, adaptable protection and controllable self-assembling materials.
Previous work in synthetic biology was conducted with only a small range of microorganisms; this work involves a wider range involving undomesticated and sometimes entirely foreign bacteria, opening new pathways into synthetic biology.
That accessing undomesticated bacteria is difficult due to the limited ability for scientists to (currently) transfer DNA onto the cell.
That being able to genetically edit undomesticated bacteria is a way to open a wide range of innovations in synthetic biology.
Political: has it been brought up by anything, used for anything, how was it funded? What for?
The LUCI initiative (see
) is partly a political initiative as it was created by the American government to bring together scientists; the developed process (XPORT) was brought about as a result of this program.
Cultural: Has this/Can this change how society has viewed anything?
Should XPORT become publicised, society will view science as more important and relevant as it is used in more practical applications like military technology or perhaps in the household. The average layman may carry more interest towards genetic engineering.
Ethical: what ethics and morals have to be brought into consideration?
There would be very little in the way of an ethical issue/protest regarding the rights of the organisms experimented upon as there are a lot less rights protecting the various microorganisms that are to be modified should this practise become mainstream, unlike the pages of issues raised by the genetic editing of an actual human being. However, XPORT's potential military use and use in agriculture creates both biowarfare concerns and the usual ethical issues of genetically enhanced agriculture like whether it will be harmful or whether it is used unlawfully.
Predictions (what will happen?)
Engineering of microbes living in humans or in soil can mean applications to human and agricultural improvement; the conditions that said cells live in are harsh and makes them quite robust/adapted to those conditions, and if they can be edited they would thrive in the sorts of conditions domesticated cells usually die in.
What do we know? What have we learned?
Through XPORT, the technique used to apply this form of gene editing, undomesticated/uncultured cells derived from almost anywhere can be edited; the previous assumption that cells must first be domesticated to be edited, or that editing of undomesticated cells is extremely difficult and limited in its application has now been disproved.
What discoveries have been made with it?
Allowed for the demonstration of newly programmed functions in undomesticated cells that hasn't been seen before in said cells
Solutions for what?
The biotechnology fulfils the need for broadly applicable synthetic biology tools that allow access to a wide range of organisms via the editing of DNA inside a cell.
What does this impact?
Enhances military equipment; genetic engineering allows for complex defensive measures and self-healing of equipment.
Though the aim is mostly to assist the military, the tech can also be put into agricultural, health and general environmental areas.
What are the risks of application?
The risks that can be carried by any gene editing technique apply to this: that future consumers of this product may be affected in ways that we haven't been able to predict, that it may not work, and other hypotheses relating to unpredictable future developments that can be applied to almost anything.
What are some potential applications?
Bacteria are present everywhere. In regards to the military applications of XPORT, access to many of these bacteria allow for potential breakthroughs in combat and defence.