This Monday, my lab group conducted our final experiment in Cell Biology. In the lab, we synthesized and analyzed human proteins. Proteins are an essential part of any living system. These biomolecules serve as structural and dietary components and also help to catalyze the reactions that are necessary for life. As such, they come in various types and are often used for research (CMMB, 2017).
The special thing about the proteins we analyzed in this lab is that they were fusion proteins that were transcribed as a result of chimerical DNA. We created said DNA by artificially fusing constituents from different organisms in order to create a sequence that would not otherwise be found in the species’ genome. By using this method, cells can be made to synthesize particular proteins which can then be purified in the quantities that aren’t normal.
In lab, I initally entered and went through the procedure with a scientific mindset and didn’t generally philosophically question what it was that I was doing. But splicing together DNA from different genomes reminded me heavily of Haraway’s view that “we are all chimeras” and composite beings with no easily defined identities (Haraway, 297). Growing up, previous classes always taught about the sanctity of the genetic code and how well protected it was. But it amazed me to find out how easily we were able to tamper with said genetic code at the collegiate level. In essence, the protein that was analyzed in this experiment was made made by placing modified plasmid from a human cell into an E. Coli host cell with a molecular tag.
The Teaching assistant in the lab also made it apparent that the same technique of utilizing chimerical DNA to produce recombinant proteins is used for industrial and pharmaceutical purposes. This shows that in this day and age, it’s impossible not to be a chimera. Just like we did, pharmacists use laboratory machines to mass produce proteins in bacteria and extract them in order to supplement what the individual may or may not be missing. Even through our medicine, we rely extremely on external technology to create the compounds that facilitate our living. In that sense, we are all a “hybrid of machine and organism.” We are all cyborgs.
CMMB Department. 2017. Lab #5: Detection and analysis of recombinant dihydrofolatereductase. Cell Biology Lab, PCB 3023L, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.
Haraway, Donna. “Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” Simians, Cyborgs and women: The reinvention of nature (1991): 149-181.