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October 17, 2006

Comments

Mike Koenecke

As a devotee of Spider Man comics of old (as it looks like Jimmy is), I disagree with him on this issue. I never much liked the concept of mechanical web shooters and brewed up Spidey-silk, and thought the movie's approach worked better.

Though the whole "tiny hooks coming out of his palms" bit was pretty silly: exactly *how* does that work through Peter Parker's gloves and boots?

Randolph Carter

Well, if Spiderman gets his powers from the DNA of a spider, and if he has organic web-shooters, then those webs wouldn't be coming out of his hands. . . .

I think Lee and Ditko must have realized this when they created Spidey. In addition, I think that having Peter Parker create his own web-shooters was done to show that his powers didn't just come from his Spider DNA; he has a brain, too, and that is also a kind of power. So, it was really saying that nerds like Parker don't need super-powers to be strong; they can use their minds to that effect. Of course, the whole super-strength, sticking to walls, and spider-sense thing help out a great deal, too :)

Gene Branaman

"Well, if Spiderman gets his powers from the DNA of a spider, and if he has organic web-shooters, then those webs wouldn't be coming out of his hands. . . ."

Which would have made for some . . . interesting (or disturbing) action sequences. ;)

Seriously, this is a really cool thing! I think it's especially fascinating that they'd use spider silk for sutures. Amazing.

David B.

It is my gift, my curse. Who am I? I'm Spider-Man!

Michael

So what exactly is the Catholic Church's moral teaching on the creation of chimera? What if humans are genetically manipulated with the addition of non-human genes?

J.R. Stoodley

I don't think the question yet is putting spider genes in humans. They are talking about putting them in plants or animals. Personally I get weirded out by the thought of GM animals producing stuff in their milk, esp. something like spider silk protein. Can't they just use GM bacteria like normal people?

J.R. Stoodley

p.s. GM= genetically modified

Michael

I don't think the question yet is putting spider genes in humans.

Yet. How far are we away from that eventuality?

Dean Steinlage

I've heard of experiments w/ spider silk as a ballistic cloth. If anything this is even more extrordinary.

J.R. Stoodley

Michael,

There are two different issues you could be refering to. One would be adding genes to the cells of adult human tissues. For instance, a person is born unable to create some important enzyme, and the functional gene for that is inserted into some of their cells in the proper organ, at least partially curing them of the desease. This is probably a good thing. I find it hightly unlikely that benefit could be gained through the splicing of nonhuman genes into the cells of a person. Even if we get human cells to make spider silk protein we can't make the body do anything useful with it. If we ever reach the point it will be very far in the future. On the other hand perhaps if the versions of certain proteins in other species are deemed superior to those produced by healthy humans, at least for a specific medical goal under the specific conditions, then maybe the genes for those proteins would be helpful.

Another proposal is actually creating GM human embryos, and growing them either to adulthood or to a stage where organs or other parts are removed for medical or research purposes. This is morally problematic to say the least, but embryonic stem cell research is smoothing to ethical road for such research in the minds and hearts of the people.

Jared Weber

This is so cool. As someone who had both anterior cruciate ligaments replaced (with pieces of my patellar tendons), this is huge to me. I'm sure it'd shorten recovery time immensely if it could be done right.

And oh yeah, I much preferred it when li'l' Petey Parker created his own web shooters. Showed his ingenuity and made him a little closer to my real favorite ... the Batman. What's cooler than knowing that, with enough time, money, and determination, you could actually turn yourself into a crime-fighting machine (instead of being born that way or needing to get bitten by something or irradiated in a way that won't kill you)?

James Arruda

Not only that, but material science research is looking into the strength of the fibers (a very appealing strength to weight ratio) and perhaps an application to composite manufacturing. But's that just in the infant stages.

All I know is, I love how if we did into nature deep enough, we will find answers to medical, engineering, and other scientific questions. Good stuff all around.

And why no organic web shooters? If I cannot have telekinesis, then I need some way to get the remote to me when it is far away.

Michael

There are two different issues you could be refering to.

Indeed. That is why two questions were asked, but they are closely related.

I find it hightly unlikely that benefit could be gained through the splicing of nonhuman genes into the cells of a person.

Personal feelings aside, transhumanism is coming, probably more quickly than any of us would expect and I wondered if the Church has even broached the subject of ethics in regards to genetic manipulation of species, including human beings.

Realist

Spider webs/threads have one major flaw, they are biodegradeable and therefore will support other organics like bacteria which will destroy the thread's strength properties over time. Ditto for the effect of natural radiation and weathering on degradation of strength properties. Inorganics do not have this flaw.

Gene Branaman

"As someone who had both anterior cruciate ligaments replaced (with pieces of my patellar tendons), this is huge to me."

Yeah, Jared, I had ACL surgery on my left knee 3 years ago so I was very interested in this piece. But they used part of my hamstring to replace my ACL rather than the patellar tendon. It takes about 3 months for the muscle to adjust, tighten up, & begin acting like a tendon. By that time, I was almost out of PT & doing most everything I'd been doing before. There have been so many advancements in this sort of surgery in the last 10 years that have dramatically changed techniques & recovery time & the use of spider silk is only one more. Amazing.

Regarding sticking to walls, scientists have recently modeled the ability of gecko lizards to stick to walls effectively. With the right gloves and boots, wall-crawling may be quite feasible...but gecko-men and gecko-women would still probably not be able to climb on the glass ceiling. ;)

Transhumanism is coming as an ideology; no question. Right now at any rate it is about as "scientific" as Nazi "racial hygiene", and about as palatable.

The Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (which meets with some Catholic Bishops every year) has pondered the moral question in some detail.

AND, a bonus for all you scientifictionists:
"The Game of Fox and Lion" by Robert Chase is a well-plotted far-future intriguing (in all senses of the term) scenario. A major element involves resolving a theological controversy in the Catholic Church over the status of genetically-and-developmentally modified nonhumans, who are an increasing social and economic factor.

Minor Spoiler warning:
The pro-life movement won out a few centuries before the book starts, and everyone agrees unmodified humans deserve protection from conception through natural death.

Plea to Jimmy: read it and review!

Regarding sticking to walls, scientists have recently modeled the ability of gecko lizards to stick to walls effectively. With the right gloves and boots, wall-crawling may be quite feasible...but gecko-men and gecko-women would still probably not be able to climb on the glass ceiling. ;)

Transhumanism is coming as an ideology; no question. Right now at any rate it is about as "scientific" as Nazi "racial hygiene", and about as palatable.

The Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (which meets with some Catholic Bishops every year) has pondered the moral question in some detail.

AND, a bonus for all you scientifictionists:
"The Game of Fox and Lion" by Robert Chase is a well-plotted far-future intriguing (in all senses of the term) scenario with a major element being a theological controversy in the Catholic Church over the status of genetically-and-developmentally modified nonhumans, who are an increasing social and economic factor.

Note to Jimmy: please read it and review!

Jared Weber

"Realist": Biodegradation is not an issue here. Human beings are completely biodegradable and both my natural and my new ACLs were and are all biological material.

Gene: Yeah, one of my friends had a similar replacement to yours. One of my other friends had the same procedure as me. And my brother had a cadaver ACL replacement. Recovery times were vastly different for each. I was throwing standing backflips only two months after my first surgery (in 1999) and three months after the second in 2003. My friends had slightly longer recoveries and my brother had a really long recovery.

You back to normal now?

Realist

True, but body rejection might be an issue.

Michael

To further explore the implications, what is the possibility of spider silk producing alfalfa getting out into the normal alfalfa of the world and changing its natural characteristics?

Jared Weber

"Realist": Mr. Akin addressed that in his original post by reprinting this: "Studies on animals have revealed that spider silk triggers little if any immune responses, which cause rejection of medical implants."

Gene Branaman

"You back to normal now?"

Yeah, I am, Jared. Actually, I was surprised at how short my recovery was - only 3 months of PT, but I wasn't in competitive sports. I've had my knee *tested* in real life when I slipped in the kitchen. The joint is nice & tight. It's really amazing what can be done now.

And, I had a brush with Olympic fame due to my surgery - my surgeon was Eric Heiden, speed skating gold medalist. He's a nice guy. I injured my knee just after Chris Webber did, when he was playing for the Sacramento Kings, & I was told I had basically the same procedure he did, except he went to Atlanta, I think, where they shave the bone where the they'll attach the donor from the patient's hammy, sort of like a potter will do when attaching a handle to a mug, to help it attach better. Sounds painful to me but, really, we're not talking a lot of surface area.

What's really interesting - & I'd never have thought this - but he told me that ACL surgeries are done with a fair amount of frequency these days; enough to keep him & another surgeon busy with them, as well as lateral & medial meniscus tears & Achilles tendon repairs. Maybe it's an indication of how active folks really are these days?

Sounds as if you did really well with your surgeries! Excellent.

Tim J.

Wow, Gene, I remember Eric Heiden.

Cool.

Jared Weber

Gene: That's cool, man. As to the procedure's frequency, I was told it's becoming more common for any number of reasons. One of the chief reasons happens when the type of skill training done by jumpers or sprinters (and any activity that heavily features those actions) is not balanced out by proper conditioning and causes the quad to become too strong for the hamstrings, thus creating a sheering force on the ACL. The really amazing thing about replacing ligaments with tendons is that, though they are two different types of tissue, once the new ligament is in place and properly assimilated, not even a doctor can tell the difference. Now to replace those same tissues with spiderwebs which are, pound for pound, stronger than steel? Awesome. Now if they can get it to work AND do proper cartilage replacement? Invincible. Well, not quite, but still.

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