Despite our best efforts, humans are still not as skilled at making life as life forms are themselves. So naturally, DARPA would like to take advantage of that skill. A new program called “Living Foundries” seeks to use biology as a manufacturing platform, enabling the creation of new materials that are impossible to make today.
How does one build a dinosaur? There’s the much-celebrated Crichton/Spielberg method, in which you extract dino DNA from a preserved prehistoric mosquito. But there are problems with this approach, says paleontologist Jack Horner in a recent TED Talk, and besides: there are plenty of spare dinosaur parts laying around our modern world from which to build a dinosaur. We just need to find the right ones.
Here at PopSci, there's nothing we love more than figuring out how something works, be it the latest technology, or a scientific breakthrough. That moment of discovery - let's call it a "how it works moment" - is almost as exciting for us buffs as it is for the researchers.
Medical detectives National Institutes of Health have just cracked their first case wide open, a result they hope to repeat with a slew of other uncharacterized illnesses and conditions. The Undiagnosed Diseases Program (UDP), a sleuthing agency set up within the NIH in 2008 to connect the dots between cases of undiagnosable illnesses, has traced the source of an extremely rare vascular disorder back to its genetic roots, notching the first closed case for the UDP and another victory for diagnosis genomics.
When news broke last week that archaeologist had unearthed a 6,000-year-old winemaking operation in an Armenian cave, many took it as occasion to pat ourselves on the backs—after all, it’s proof that early humans were more civilized than previously thought, evolved creatures that we are.
E. coli gets a bad rap – probably due to the violent illness it induces – but a group of Chinese University students in Hong Kong have found a novel and potentially reputation-changing use for the bacteria: data storage. The team has devised a way to encrypt and store information in the DNA of bacteria to such an effective degree that they say just one gram of E. coli could store the same amount of data as 450 two-terabyte hard drives.
Proponents of genetic medicine say DNA sequencing is the future of medicine and that soon every truly sick person will have his or her genome sequenced. Critics cite privacy concerns and note that genetic mutations and variations don’t necessarily lead to medical outcomes. Whatever the position, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t good news: the first child – plagued by undiagnosable illness – has been saved by DNA sequencing.
A laboratory at the University of Osaka running an ongoing study on evolution has revealed that they’ve produced a genetically engineered mouse that tweets like a bird. They’ve produced more than 100 of them actually, as well as a mouse with short limbs and one with a tail like a dachshund. It’s all part of a larger study into how genetic mutations drive evolutions and diverse outcomes that can come about as a result of miscopying DNA.
Four ounces of shampoo is enough to send the Transportation Security Administration into a tizzy, but the U.S. government does not have any rules governing the making of custom sequences of DNA to order, for sale to any interested would-be bioterrorists. Until now, anyway.
Perhaps the only thing scarier than the living dead is finding out that they're already inside the house. Geneticists recently found that non-coding genes -- some of the many dotting the human genome -- can rise from the dead. When they do they can cause problems, including one of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy.
Scientists at the University of Arizona have successfully bred genetically modified mosquitoes that are 100 percent resistant to the malaria parasite, rendering the mosquito incapable of infecting humans with malaria.
The sex habits of mice have long been an intriguing subject for scientists. Now, mouse sex just got a lot more interesting for the rest of us.
A group of Korean geneticists has altered the sexual preferences of female mice by removing a single gene linked to reproductive behavior. Without the gene, the mice gravitated toward mice of the same sex.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.