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"History of continuous culture techniques and their promise of directed evolution" Gabriele Gramelsberger (RWTH Aachen)

Egenis seminar series

Egenis seminar series. Continuous culture techniques were developed in the early twentieth century to replace cumbersome studies of cell growth in batch cultures. Devices — called "automatic syringe mechanism," "turbidostat," "chemostat," "bactogen," and "microbial auxanometer" — have been designed by Jacques Monod, Aron Novick and Leo Szilard and other scientists. With these devices cell growth came under the external control of the experimenters and thus accessible for metabolically and genetically studying organisms but also for developing a mathematical theory of growth kinetics. The paper explores the historical development of continuous culture devices. It further discusses contemporary designs of continuous culture techniques realizing a specific event-based flow algorithm able to simulate directed evolution and produce artificial cells and microorganisms. This current development is seen as an alternative approach to today's synthetic biology.

Event details

Gabriele Gramelsberger is professor for philosophy of science and technology at the RWTH Aachen University. Her research focusses on the transformation of science into computational science, on concepts of computing, and on the mathematization of meteorology and biology. She was principal investigator of the research group “Lifelike algorithms and cellular machines” (2009 to 2012) exploring the merging of information- and biotechnology. The results have in published in a special issue on “Philosophical Perspectives on Synthetic Biology” (Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44/2) edited together with Tarja Knuuttila and Axel Gelfert. Recently, her paper on “Continuous Culture Techniques as Simulators for Standard Cells. Jacques Monod's. Aron Novick's and Leo Szilard's Quantitative Approach to Microbiology” was accepted and will be published in History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences.


Byrne House