Revision as of 10:42, 26 July 2012 by Marquet (Talk | contribs)

Human practice

Xenopus laevis enters iGEM, becoming a new “chassis” on which the iGEM teams could do synthetic biology. As our project aims at getting SB to an upper scale, the one of a multicellular organism, we believe we have to do a deep investigation on the psychological and ethical questions raised by our project. Thus our human practice should be the occasion to discuss in the lab the various positions team members and society may have concerning animal experimentation and animal biotechnology. We decided to track the changes in our attitude to animal experimentation during our project by doing surveys; we are organizing debates to clarify what we understand by ethics for SB and animal experimenation, presentations to familiarize ourselves with various animal rights theories, think or re-think our relation to non-human beings.

Before we start

As we decided doing SB on tadpoles we were first confronted with the issue of animal experimentation. The few information we had at hand were kind of confusing, are tadpoles considered by law as animals or as embryos? This point could have a strong impact on our work, defining straightly what we could or could not do, where, with who, and if we need specific formations. We can see in the explanatory report of the European Convention for the Protection of Vertebrate Animals used for Experimental and other Scientific Purposes intended line 11 that tadpoles' status have been a matter of debates :

11. Larval forms capable of free life without any foetal or maternal appendices and/or capable of reproduction are covered by the Convention, principally to bring the tadpole and the axolotl within its scope.

More investigation lead us to the following results: according to Nieuwkoop and Faber’s Normal Table (1994) tadpoles can be considered being under the European Convention at stage 45 (aroung 4 days and 2 hours of development when brood at 22-24°C/71-75F). Thus, if the enginered tadpole lives more than 4/5 days, we are leaving embryos for animal experimentation. Thanks to the supervising of Nicolas Pollet and the laboratory Metamorphosys we have a legal structure authorizing us to check our results after the 4 days of growth. Therefore we are, according to laws, doing animal experimentation. What does it change for our practice will be a point to investigate.

Before starting experimenting, we had to know a few basics about animal experimentation, which are the national charter on animal experimentation,

Charte nationale portant sur l'éthique de l'expérimentation animale
National charter on the ethics of animal experimentation

and the 3R principle from Russel and Burch 1959 “The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique”:
Replacement: justifying why you needed to do your experiments on animals, why you couldn’t just use cell cultures or computer modeling.
Refinement: denotes experimental approaches that minimize the suffering of laboratory animals
Reduction: alludes to reduction of the number of animal experiments through statistical optimisation and intelligently designed experiment.

These three points had obviously to be taken into account in the final definition of the project (why frogs?) and in our practice.

First survey

Here are the first questions, asked during the second week of june, before starting experimenting on tadpoles.

A/ What was your reaction when you learned that the project was engineering tadpoles?
B/ Do you feel embarrassed when you have to explain what you are doing to your friends or family?
C/ What is their reaction when you tell them you are engineering tadpoles?
D/ How do you feel about experimenting on tadpoles?
E/ What difference do you make between experimenting on bacteria and on tadpoles?

Second survey

A/ On animal experimentation

1/ Animal experimentation ethics rely on the ability of animals to feel pain and live freely (move and eat). Thus only adult vertebrates (with few exceptions like octopus vulgaris) are concerned by animal experimentation ethics. What do you think of the feeling pain criterion, does it make sense for you?
2/ What do you think of the operational boarder of four days and a half: the embryo tadpole becomes an animal tadpole. Does it change anything to you?
3/ What difference do you make between animals and model organisms?
4/ To what extent do you think the end justifies the means concerning animal experimentation?
5/ Do you feel we have responsibilities towards animals? And towards nature (like in Gaïa hypothesis)?
6/ Do you think synthetic biology could create a new way of thinking human/animal relations?
7/ Do you imagine this comic with frogs replacing the bacteria (see Drew Endy’s comics: )?
8/ Do you think that introducing animals in iGEM should require a distance from iGEM’s spirit: (life is like Lego, engineering life and making biotic games are so much fun, and synthetic biology is more like hijacking chassis than modifying tadpoles)?

B/ More remote philosophical questions

1/ One often hears there is a need of ethics in synthetic biology, what do understand by ethics, what would you expect from it?
2/ The moto of is “making life better, a part at time”. How do you understand better? To what extent do you think technology is neutral?
3/ A more epistemological question concerning the relation of benchers and modelers, how would you define a good model?

Retrieved from ""