Final Project (Update)

Building on my research for this class, as well as pulling from knowledge gained in last semester’s Subtraction class, my final project will be both speculative and actionable — looking at a large solution for a large problem and suggesting a small intervention. 


The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors inside us. Cannabis is unique in that not many other plants have the capacity to produce cannabinoids; the genes that encode the enzymes required to produce cannabinoids are unique to the cannabis genome.

Anandamide, otherwise known as “the bliss molecule” lives in the body and plays a role int he neural generation of pleasure and motivation. CBD increases the amount of anandamide in the body, promoting homeostasis in the body, reducing the sensation of pain and inhibiting inflammation . I believe Marijuana is largely illegal because it helps the endocannabinoid system reach homeostasis which is detrimental to big pharma. 

For my midterm project, I explored the issue of roundup, which is an herbicide found in so much of our food that interferes with ATP production by adversely affecting mitochondrial membrane permeability and allowing “free radicals to get in”. I asked the question, “If current big-farm industry relies on a substance that adversely affects mitochondrial membrane and has serious health effects, what would it look like to use a cannabis-based intervention to control unwanted plants?”


How could we use CBD to promote homeostasis and create individual and collective balance of the body through a process of passive consuming, similarly to the process of us eating fruits and vegetables sprayed with herbicide?


I have intentionally chosen the audience of people living in the five boroughs of New York City, as people who most need balance in their bodies, as this is a population of people who are exposed to mass amounts of plastics, herbicide, toxins, pollutants as well as stress caused by financial pressures, large amounts of people and heightened militarization. 


In coming up with this intervention I thought a lot about consent, and the politics around consent. Why is it that the response to roundup on most of our food, or even fluoride being in our water is accepted as normal, yet a project around large-scale distribution of CBD could be very contentious? 

Instead of using something really bad for our bodies in everything we consume, why don’t we use something good? My speculative intervention would be a soil-borne herbicide made out of CBD, which works applied to the soil as to be taken up by the roots to target the plant. For my final project, I will not build a prototype, but posit this intervention as a large-scale speculative idea that could create large-scale homeostasis for a population in need of internal re-balancing of the body. 


My actionable intervention is in-between passive and active consumption of CBD. My idea is to create a toothbrush out of wood and to coat it in CBD / Hemp oil in a way that is long-lasting so that each time someone puts it in their mouth they are receiving some benefits of the plant. Since people are encouraged to brush their teeth twice a day, they will receive these benefits in the morning and at night. The benefits of CBD oil that could be useful in the morning could be reduction of anxiety and at night it would be the relief of pain. Consuming CBD daily would also give the individual antipsychotic effects, release neuroprotective properties, work towards halting the growth of cancer and help heart health.

On a larger scale, if everyone had a CBD toothbrush, individuals’ mental health would be more balanced, which would hopefully strengthen our relationship to each other and the environment. Another positive long-term affect could be a better outlook on marijuana and a more critical view of the way we have racialized, criminalized and created clinical framework around a necessary plant. 

The act of brushing our teeth is active in that we choose to do so each day and would have to choose the toothbrush we use, however it is habitual enough that it becomes passive after some time. 




  • Nov 1- Narrative written out; Systems map for speculative component
  • Nov 8- Toothbrush design; Order materials
  • Nov 15- Build 
  • Nov 22- Make hemp coat
  • Nov 29- Presentation

Final Project Proposal

I need more help crafting my final project but I definitely know I want it to be around the endocannibanoid system. I think the scientific knowledge knowledge CBD is so crucial and unknown and is a large missing component of the cannabis industry. I think if anything my intention will be to demystify this information and create a strong connection to our individual and collective health through study of this plant and system.  What I’m struggling with at this point is what to make. I think a proof of concept that shows a way to infuse it into all of our agricultural system (my midterm was about herbicide) would be interesting, however I am not sure about the legal issues surrounding this. I also want to stay conscious that CBD products and food are generally really elite and unaffordable and I don’t really want to encourage that. 

Week 7 Responses:

I read these readings at odds with each other, although they all confronted an issue of renewable / organic materials being used as opposed to non-renewable plastics and chemical material. On the one hand there are the projects using the mushrooms as building block, spider silk as cloth and bacteria as biomaterial which made me think of gradual decomposition, holes, imperfection, disintegration. While on the other hand, the spinach being crafted into a heart using human cells made me think of our quest to last forever. I like the projects of organic material, especially the mushroom one because it makes me feel like maybe we are returning to a more natural cycle which requires us to return to the earth. An unnatural cycle, however (in my eyes, fueled by ego) I believe is part of us desiring so much to solve issues of body failure instead of solving issues of climate change, re-balancing the earth, making sure there is less inequality. It reminds me of this millionaire I read about who was on his 7th heart transplant. I understand this desire (I have it too, I want to live very long), but I also think there is something to say about us not being able to let go of temporary being, decomposition 

Week 5: Reading Responses

My favorite part of the reading for this week was the series of questions posited by Freeman Dyson in “Our Biotech Future.” I think these question get at the core of where our attention should be with regarding biotech: “First, can it be stopped? Second, ought it to be stopped? Third, if stopping it is either impossible or undesirable, what are the appropriate limits that our society must impose on it? Fourth, how should the limits be decided? Fifth, how should the limits be enforced, nationally and internationally?”

I am not really sure how hope fits into all of this, but I was very intrigued by the technology that he suggested which would increase the amount of solar energy able to be transformed through artificial solar collectors. The question of rural poor communities being serviced is obviously critical but I wonder how many of the technologies described in the article published in The WIRE, for example are intending to do this. I don’t think making more food will solve an issue with ill distribution of food.  This article in particular reminded me of Nathier’s gene-drive project, “Playing Gods”. 

The other thing that stood out to me a lot was the power of science fiction, and it’s role in imagining futures. Also the importance of including arts and designers in speculative design! The humanities thinkers, farmers, people from poor / rural neighborhoods are also just as important. 

Gene Drive Assignment


A gene gene drive works by overriding natural selection’s typical 50-50 mix, ensuring that a desired trait introduced by genetic engineering more efficiently spreads through a wild population. 

DARPA and the military — why would the military need a gene drive?

Military as an apparatus of biopower.

 Brightfield Group report quoted by Forbes: $6.5 billion in 2016, The cannabis market is likely to surpass $31 billion by 2021,

PreveCeutical has a product, CELLB9®, an oral dilute solution utilizing select peptides from the blue scorpion, found only in the Caribbean region. PreveCeutical’s “Nature Identical” research team is building on proprietary chemistry to produce controlled venom peptides that it hopes will be able to halt the progression of cancers, while also exploring the peptides’ potential in responding to other medical concerns related to pain management, metabolic disorders, cancers, cardiovascular conditions and infectious diseases.


The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a biological system composed of endocannabinoids, which are endogenous lipid-based retrograde neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors,  Cannabis is unique in that no other plants that we know of have the capacity to produce cannabinoids; the genes that encode the enzymes required to produce cannabinoids are unique to the cannabis genome. The system is composed of endocannabinoid (retrograde neurotransmitters) that bind to cannabinoid receptors.CBD is one of 113 cannabinoids found in hemp (40%)

CBD indirectly activates CB1 and CBD2 receptors located throughout the body to produce a variety of outcomes.B ecause CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system, it helps to promote homeostasis in the body, reducing the sensation of pain and inhibiting inflammation.

These indirect actions include activating TRPV1 Receptors that work to control important functions like pain perception, body temperature, and inflammation. CBD can also increase the amount of anandamide in the body. Known as the “bliss molecule,” anandamide plays a role in the neural generation of pleasure and motivation.

I did research on pharmaceutical companies and found that a few are developing research to do types of gene drives that would intervene with the DNA of the cannabis plant in order to heighten the neuroconnectivity in the endocannibinoid system. This is what my gene drive was based off of. 

I posited a gene-drive that had a goal of curing cancer and interfering with DNA of the cannabis plant to affect the cannabinoids within the plant. I thought that perhaps one would introduce a strain that was a higher CBD : THC ration for the purpose of creating higher activity between the neurotransmitters and the cannabinoid receptors.

 (Before and after sketches I made of this hypothetical process). 

After three generations, the strain would hypothetically to start to take form naturally, however obvious this would implicate intense financial effects and trans-national and domestic conflict and most likely war. In addition, this study published by Project CBD outlines the potential consequences of activation of mitochondrial CB1 receptors, inducing the protection of cells fro oxidative stress, encouraging cell migration but also “cell death in some conditions” (apoptosis).

Image of a mitochondria dying, producing little energy giving out many free radicals. 

This paradoxical effect raises questions about quantity and regulation but also for me about the necessity for man to cure cancer these types of treatment. Regardless of what happens there is no doubt that this industry will continue to grow and become one of the greatest market and military forces. 

Midterm Progress


  • The cell membrane’s main purpose is to protect the cell and control the movement of materials entering and leaving the cell.  
  • membrane as a wall with security guards
  • In 2012, scientists reported cannabinoid receptors on the membranes of mitochondria (Their main function is to produce energy for the cell. )
  •  Organelle =  “cell compartment“, other cells those that contain deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
  •  mitochondrion= is a double-membrane-bound organelle found in most eukaryotic organisms (cells have a nucleus enclosed within membranes)
  •  mitochondria  take high-energy molecules—such as sugars and amino acids—and convert them into a form of energy, called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which the cell can use. For the cell, ATP is like a battery.
  • Defects in mitochondria have been linked to a wide range of illness : alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, cancer, epilepsy, diabetes, etc.
  •  Cell structure, cross section of the cell detailed colorful anatomy with description\
  • Cannabinoids are notorious (in science and lived experience) for exerting opposite effects in different situations.
  •  At low-stress conditions, cannabinoids often increase mitochondrial activity and cellular respiration, triggering autophagic cellular repair.
  • “under pathological conditions involving mitochondrial dysfunction and calcium [Ca(2+)] dysregulation, CBD may prove beneficial in preventing apoptotic signaling via a restoration of calcium homeostasis.”
  • for stroke victims, CBD can reduce the severity of ischemic damage by enhancing NCX receptor expression on the mitochondrial membrane.
  •  effects of cannabinoids depend on cellular conditions as well as dosage. For example, at high doses THC will reduce mitochondrial activity by binding to CB1 receptors on the organelle’s surface; but at low doses THC may cause an opposite effect by changing the fluidity of the mitochondrial membrane in way that promotes ATP synthesis and cellular respiration. 

The synovial membrane (also known as the synovial stratum, synovium or stratum synoviale) is a specialized connective tissue that lines the inner surface of capsules of synovial joints and tendon sheath.[1] It makes direct contact with the fibrous membrane on the outside surface and with the synovial fluid lubricant on the inside surface. In contact with the synovial fluid at the tissue surface are many rounded macrophage-like synovial cells (type A) and also type B cells. Type A cells maintain the synovial fluid by removing wear-and-tear debris. As for type B cells, they produce hyaluronan, as well as other extracellular components in the synovial fluid.[2]


“It offers little barrier to diffusion of most materials. Superficial capillaries and venules are fenestrated and presumably allow rapid exchange of fluid and electrolytes”


The normal gross appearance is shiny with variable numbers of villous projections. B









Mitochondria harness the energy of electrons by using proteins imbedded in the mitochondrial membrane; alteration of membrane fluidity can inhibit the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy and allow free radicals to more easily escape into the cell. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at MIT, reports that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide interferes with ATP production by adversely affecting mitochondrial membrane permeability.


CBD — Helps enconnabinoid system because it allows us to reach homeotasis (that’s why its illegal, bc it would be depremental to big pharma)

Roundup — does the opposite, interferes w ATP production by adverseyl affecting mitochonrdial membrane permeability and therefor allowsing more “free radicals” to get into the micohondria





In Class Idea Generator

Membranes and Mitochondria

What is mitochondria, exactly?


One of the main functions of mitochondria is to take high-energy molecules—such as sugars and amino acids—and convert them into a form of energy, called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which the cell can use. For the cell, ATP is like a battery.

While commonly referred to as the cell’s powerhouse, mitochondria are also involved in other metabolism-related functions, but the goal is always the same—homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite external fluctuations.

Mitochondria relates to “energy metabolism, oxidative stress, cell signalling, and cell death” –study 

Three top ideas:

  1. Mitochondria in relation to cannabinoid system
  2. Chloroplast paint as cheap solar panels
  3. Membrane as material  


Biological Membrane Initial Research

biological membrane or biomembrane is an enclosing or separating membrane that acts as a selectively permeable barrier within living thingsFrom Wikipedia. 

Membrane, in biology, the thin layer that forms the outer boundary of a living cell or of an internal cell compartment. The outer boundary is the plasma membrane, and the compartments enclosed by internal membranes are called organelles. From Britannica 

Biological membranes have three primary functions:

(1) they keep toxic substances out of the cell

(2) they contain receptors and channels that allow specific molecules, such as ions, nutrients, wastes, and metabolic products, that mediate cellular and extracellular activities to pass between organelles and between the cell and the outside environment

(3) they separate vital but incompatible metabolic processes conducted within organelles. 

Right off the bat im having a lot of inspirations for tools that could act as interventions based off the main functions of biological membranes. I recently read that the world’s largest man-directed ocean clean-up has started and I was very curious as to how these technologists planned to “close the loop”. The trash is out of the ocean, now what? If our bodies have natural ways to keep toxins out of our cells perhaps we could think more about this process in how we can clean up the environment. 


What makes up a cell membrane?

  1. Asymmetry- The lipid bilayer (two sheets of lipid molecules) consists of two layers which are distributed unequally between the two surfaces. There is asymmetry between outer and inner level and it reminds me of something way more organic and less chemistry!
  2. Lipids- The biological membrane is made up of “lipids with hydrophobic tails and hydrophilic heads” which help organize components into localized areas that are involved with different processes in the system, like signal transaction as an example. 
  3. Proteins- These membrane proteins catalyze different chemical reactions.  Integral proteins cannot be easily detached from lipid bilayer and will only come apart with chemical treatment that breaks membrane. 
  4.  Oligosaccharides- are sugar containing polymers that are bound in the membrane to lipids to form “glycolipids”, covalently bound to proteins to form glycoproteins. 

I’m also really interested in how this relates to endocannabinoid system which I studies last year in Future of Foods. It seems like this system has a lot to do with Cell membranes. Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body within the cell membranes (more than any other receptor system) and when these receptors are stimulated, a variety of physiologic processes occur. 



Brief Notes on Reading: 

  • what’s a “novel process?” — biotech purpose (Making microorganisms capable of novel processes)
  • technology can be accessible and readily available, so what’s the missing link? Education on this technology? Understanding that it exists? 
  • Love and hate the idea of smart phone tech. It’s so accessible but at what cost? I’m more and more thinking we should probably get rid of smart phones because they’re making us super distracted. The foldscope reminds me of the DIY centrifuge I read about last semester. I feel like even more simple the better.