Someday soon, hospital patients won’t be hooked up to wires and monitors -- instead, electronic patches will be temporarily tattooed onto their bodies. Doctors will be able to monitor their vital signs without poking and prodding, and patients wearing neck patches will even be able to communicate with robots, who will translate throat muscle movements into simple speech.
Should we find alien life elsewhere in the universe, what would it look like? Biologists on Earth don’t even agree on how life arose here--or what the definition of life really is--but one thing biologists do seem to agree on is that it would be really useful to have a second example of life to compare with our own version. But that second example most likely won’t come from some faraway planet, says the NYT's Dennis Overbye. Scientists will more likely create it right here on Earth.
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.
In a breakthrough that’s sure to stir up some controversy, Princeton researchers have reported that they have for the first time created artificial proteins from scratch in the lab that have enabled the growth of living cells. To achieve this, they created genetic sequences never seen in nature and produced completely synthetic proteins that were not modeled on living examples. They then inserted them into living bacteria, many of which thrived with their synthetic molecular machines.
Back in May, J. Craig Venter thrust synthetic biology into the spotlight when he announced that his institute had created the first self-replicating bacteria cell with a synthetic genome. Among those taking notice was President Barack Obama, who asked the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues – created by the President last year – to explore the myriad safety and ethics issues inherent in such discoveries.
Roboticists have put a lot of time and effort into creating machines that function like living things, but what about living things that function like computers? Synthetic biologists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have taken a rather large step in that direction by creating genetically modified cells that communicate with each other as though they were electronic circuits.
College and high school students from the world over begin convening in Boston today for the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition to present biotech projects they’ve been working on all summer. Teams were provided with a kit of standard, interchangeable biological parts and challenged to make a new, creative biological system out of them. This ain’t your little sister’s science fair.
While trying to create a better synthetic environment in which to study how ovarian cells develop and interact, a Brown University researcher and her colleagues have created the first working artificial ovary. Using special "3-D Petri dishes" and samples of donor cells, the team has already created an artificial organ that has carried human eggs through to maturity.
When the J. Craig Venter Institute announced last week that it had created the first "synthetic cell," whose genome had been synthesized artificially one base pair at a time, Venter himself mentioned that the genetic code had been tagged throughout with watermarks that identify it as man-made rather than natural code. Now we're hearing that those watermarks weren't arbitrary.
If figuring out how to quickly sequence genomes was but the first small step for genetics, Craig Venter has gone ahead and made a giant leap for the discipline. The J. Craig Venter Institute announced today that it has created the world’s first synthetic cell, boasting a completely synthetic chromosome produced by a machine.
“This is the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer,” Venter said in a press conference.