Biotechnology Developments

Problems/Case Studies

"Irradiation: Is It Consumer-Friendly?", R.C. (Swamy) Anantheswaran, Pennsylvania State University. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching
This case introduces students to consumer perceptions and beliefs on scientific topics, and teaches them how the food industry evaluates processing technologies from a business perspective.
This case is appropriate for undergraduate food science/technology and business/management science courses.

"The Benign Hamburger". Graham Peaslee, Hope College, Juliette Lantz, Siena College, and Mary M. Walczak, St. Olaf College. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching
In this dilemma case study, in which a restaurant chain must decide whether to use irradiated beef to protect its customers from E. coli, students are introduced to nuclear applications aside from those involving nuclear power generation and weapons
This case is appropriate for undergraduate physics and physical chemistry courses.

"Split My Brain: A Case Study of Seizure Disorder and Brain Function". Julia Omarzu, Loras College. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching.
This case study involves a couple deciding whether or not their son should undergo brain surgery to treat a severe seizure disorder. In examining this dilemma, students apply knowledge of brain anatomy and function. They also learn about brain scanning techniques and discuss the plasticity of the brain.
The case was written for an introductory psychology course, but could be adapted for any course that covers brain anatomy, neurological disorders, or rehabilitation therapies.

"Uretero What? A Systems-level View of a Pregnancy with Medical Complications" Laura Y. Lorentzen, New Jersey Center for Science, Technology & Mathematics Education, Kean University, and Youssef Kousa, College of Osteopathic Medicine & Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department, Michigan State University
This case study follows a woman faced with a series of difficult medical decisions. Students apply systems-level physiology as they explore a pregnancy with medical complications and discuss situations involving life-changing decisions prompted by modern medical technologies.
This case could be used in an advanced biology course at the high school level, or in undergraduate courses in general biology, human anatomy and physiology, human health, human sexuality, medical ethics, sociology, or women’s studies.

CNN Video Clips

Topic: "Insect Robots": Biology 8th Ed. CNN Ed 2004 (2:46)
Bob Full is interested in cockroach movement, specifically the ability of these insects to move quickly over various surfaces and obstacles. His computer studies have shown that insects move three legs at a time. Using this information, he and other scientists have developed six-legged robots that move about independently at speeds of up to three meters per second. Despite the lack of any sensory system or brain, one of the robots shown can navigate over or through obstacles. Such robots may one day be used to explore the surfaces of other planets or to locate land mines. Professor Full is also studying the ability of geckos to cling to surfaces and would like to make a robot with similar abilities. The worksheet includes the URL for Professor Full’s website, which describes his ongoing projects. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic: "History of Artificial Hearts": Biology 5th Ed. CNN Ed 2001 (2:25)
The history of artificial hearts is reviewed, with video of the 1969 implantation of the first such device by Denton Cooley and the Jarvik 7 used on Barney Clarke in 1982.  The drawbacks of these devices led researchers to turn toward devices that are not designed to replace the heart but rather to assist a failing ventricle.  The most recent product, the fully implantable AbioCor artificial heart, is shown and its function is described. The worksheet includes the URL for AbioMed, the company that manufacturers and is currently testing the AbioCor heart. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic: "Botox for Back Pain": Biology 5th Ed. CNN Ed 2001 (1:47)
A man who suffers from chronic lower back pain is interviewed.  He is receiving a relatively new treatment: injections of “botox” or botulinum toxin A.  At high doses, this bacterial toxin causes muscle weakness and botulism poisoning.  However, when injected at low doses, botox lessens pain by decreasing input from sensory fibers to the spinal cord.  A small (31 patient) clinical study, reported in the journal Neurology, showed that botox injections reduced chronic back pain for up to 8 weeks, without any apparent side effects. The worksheet includes the URL for the online version of Neurology, where an abstract of the study is available. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic: "Human Hand Transplant": Biology 5th Ed. CNN Ed 2001 (2:39)
A surgical team in Louisville has transplanted a forearm and hand from a brain-dead patient to a Michigan man who had lost his in a 1996 firecracker accident.  Animation shows the basic steps in the procedure, which took 13 hours and required a team of 18 surgeons.  In a pre-surgery interview, the transplant recipient, who will require physical therapy and lifelong immunosuppressive medication, describes his reasons for undergoing the procedure.  Earlier hand transplant attempts and outcomes are briefly described. (Student worksheet provided on CD)


"The Trials of an Artificial Heart" Ditlea, SteveCurrent Issues in Biology. Scientific American, Inc. July 2002. 42-53.
This article gives a brief overview of the history of the artificial heart and some current issues being faced today. The articles focuses on the Abiocor, an artificial heart that began clinical trials in 2001.  This article is followed by a short quiz and critical thinking questions.