At the University of Nottingham, a team of researchers is spearheading an ambitious project that could pull synthetic biology out of its niche and into the mainstream. With help from researchers elsewhere in the U.K., the U.S., Israel, and Spain, the team is trying to create a “reprogrammable cell” that can act as the in vivo cell equivalent to a computer’s operating system.
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.
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.
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.