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Life Sciences - Armstrong and Drapeau

Life Sciences - Armstrong and Drapeau

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Published by: drmark212 on Sep 15, 2009
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09/14/2009

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131
lif scic
9
Robert E. Armstrong and Mark D. Drapeau
In this chapter,
we discuss our trends within the eld o lie sciences andpotential shocks that may disrupt these trends. Our rst topic is pandemicinuenza. We discuss the ecology underlying the annual evolution o theinuenza virus and how this relates to animal arming practices in rural China.Centuries-old arming practices promote diversication and spread o novelstrains o bird u. Te Chinese leadership is in a dicult position, as it is requiredto choose between being responsible or the origin o the next u pandemic, withpotential severe economic consequences, or proactively creating rural societaldisruption to promote global health, and possibly creating instability and losingpolitical power in the process.Next, we discuss a growing trend toward difuse, networked threats, whichinclude traditional terrorists and contemporary computer hackers. Advance-ments in biotechnology and global communications allow strangers withcommon interests to collaborate on bioengineering projects—and will enabletraditional terrorists to more easily create and use advanced biological materialsas weapons. More worrisome, however, is a distinct scenario: amateur biohackersconducting benign research could inadvertently help criminals or terroristsobtain sophisticated biological agents that can be used as weapons. Tis couldoccur through hijacking or copycatting o research. Alternatively, disafectedbiohackers could undertake criminal missions aer adopting an ideology relatedto scientic research.Te third area we explore is the trend o civilian and military humanperormance enhancement via interactions o the body with both biologicaland inert technologies. A potential shock here—perhaps oreshadowed by thecontemporary political and scientic debate over stem cell research—is that amyriad o ethical concerns may delay U.S. advancement in this area, whilepotential enemies may not similarly restrict themselves. As a result, an emergent
 
132
F
IghtIng
C
hanCe
power may be able to use the lie sciences as an asymmetric orce multiplier. Moreimportantly, we may be orced to alter our societal values to meet such a threat.Our nal section takes the very long view o advances in genetics, genomics,proteomics, and advanced technology—including DNA sequencing, gene “chips,and advanced inormation-sharing—that make the biological research possible.We discuss general trends in biotechnology intersecting with the seemingly disparate worlds o traditional agriculture and advanced engineering. In thelong view, applying new biotech to old problems will most likely result in a bio-based economy (rather than a petro-based one) in which everyday objects will bemanuactured rom renewable biological resources. Potential shocks associatedwith this trend are an attenuation o urbanization trends due to building o regional bioreneries, primarily in rural areas, and hot or cold conicts overaccess to biological resources arising between the gene-rich/technology-poorcountries along the equator versus the gene-poor/technology-rich countries o the more developed world.As a next step beyond this chapter, we are interested in answering twoundamental questions. First, what deense strategies can shape the environmentand hedge against major risks or shocks? Secondly, how can we synthesize trendsand shocks rom diferent areas to use them to the competitive advantage o theUnited States?
Chi’ Frig Prctic  bir Fu
TREnds
Pandemics recur periodically yet unpredictably and are invariably associatedwith high morbidity, mortality, and great social and economic disruption.
1
 Te likelihood o pandemic outbreaks grows with increasing human-animaland domesticated animal–wild animal contact, particularly in the setting o nonindustrial, unregulated agriculture. Te U.S. National Intelligence Councilrecently proposed that pandemic disease poses the greatest overall threat to theworld economy.
2
 More worrying is that even the best public health systems may not be able todeal with a pandemic emergency. As Peter Katona points out in chapter 6 o thisbook, the world is clearly overdue or a major pandemic. Simultaneously (in theUnited States, at least), the number o patients (including the uninsured), overallmedical costs, and the already vast amount o medical technology and knowledgeare all expected to increase during the next 15 years. Tese trends could resultin a pandemic inuenza overwhelming both domestic and military health caresystems, with serious downstream efects on social lie and economics.
 
l
IFe
s
CIenCes
133In recent years, highly pathogenic H5N1 inuenza (also known as avianinuenza or bird u) has swept through poultry populations in large swathso East and Southeast Asia, creating the potential or a pandemic. China hasbeen identied as the principal reservoir or inuenza and southern China asthe inuenza epicenter. China’s role as an incubator o inuenza viruses can betraced to the rst domestication o the duck, which occurred about 2500 BCE,near the beginning o Chinese recorded history.
3
Studies suggest that wild aquatic birds—ducks—are the principal hosts orinuenza in nature. Te two primary habitats o ducks are on lakes in the arreaches o Siberia and in the rice paddies o southern China. Migrating ducks,hosts to great numbers o u viruses, “seeded” southern China with the virusesas they moved south, and the virus took hold in domesticated ducks. Althoughducks were domesticated 4,500 years ago, it was not until the early years o theQing dynasty, in the mid-17
th
century, that Chinese peasants began keepingducks together with wild waterowl in rice paddies.Troughout history, the connection between birds and the u has spawnedepidemics in Asia, especially in southern China. Dense concentrations o humansand livestock have le ew o China’s original migratory habitats intact.
4
Birds ndit dicult to locate quality places to land as they make their migration every yearbetween southern Indonesia and the Arctic Circle o Siberia. Consequently, they land on arms and compete with domestic animals or ood and water, thereby introducing new viruses into arms and spawning epidemics in China.Te country is estimated to have 640,000 to 1 million villages where owl areraised in close proximity to humans and which annually raise about 13 billionchickens, 60 percent o them on small arms. Unortunately, China’s agriculturalpractices have not changed appreciably in any o the peasant areas where birdslive with humans—birds are treated as pets by peasant children—and inectioncontrol measures or arming are not only disregarded but also mostly unknown.Te critical link in the spread o u viruses to humans is the swine populationin the arming areas where wild and domesticated owl interact. ypically, avian viruses do not pass directly to humans. (When they do, they are usually extremely lethal.) In the annual development o u viruses, the avian viruses normally pass through the swine population beore reaching the human population.Additionally, an avian virus can enter the pig population, then recombine witha human virus that also has been passed to pigs. Te result is a dangerous avian virus that can inect humans.
5
Understanding and interacting with China requires understanding itsculture. In general, because o ever-increasing global economic interdependence,

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