December 17, 2013
Booster of red blood cells synthesized for first time
In a tour de force of biological chemistry, scientists have pieced together an entire protein hormone from scratch, and demonstrated that it works just as well in mice as the natural version. If verified, the complete synthesis of erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells, would mark a new stage in the production and study of biological therapeutics. (Scientific American)
December 13, 2013
Fun with genetic engineering: Why letting students tinker with microorganisms is good for education and society
As the New York Times observed, “iGEM has been grooming an entire generation of the world’s brightest scientific minds to embrace synthetic biology’s vision – without anyone really noticing, before the public debates and regulations that typically place checks on such risky and ethically controversial new technologies have even started.” (Forbes)
December 9, 2013
‘Life at the Speed of Light: From Double Helix to Dawn of Digital Life’ by J. Craig Venter
Now, in “Life at the Speed of Light,” Venter goes behind the breakthrough, exploring the biological advances that made his artificial critter possible and offering an insider’s view of one of science’s hottest new fields. (Washington Post)
November 19, 2013
Do-it-yourself biologists doing no harm, survey finds
There’s little to fear from the existing Do-It-Yourself Biology (DIYbio) movement, concludes a report released today by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. “There’s been a lot of debate in the biosecurity community about what DIYers may or may not be doing, from making narcotics to pandemics to viruses that kill heads of state (I’m not joking),” writes Wilson fellow and report co-author Daniel Grushkin in an e-mail to ScienceInsider. He hopes the report will “dispel a lot of these myths, so that the discussion can move beyond suspicion and risks, and start focusing on opportunities.” (Science)
November 18, 2013
Genetic engineering enables human immunity to take on cancer, revolutionary therapy
Developments in genetic engineering make it possible to ‘re-programme’ the human immune system so that T cells – white blood cells that normally fight viruses – recognize and kill cancer cells. This approach, which directly harnesses the potency of the immune system, holds the prospect of a powerful new weapon in the fight against cancer. (Science World Report)
Design fiction: Grow your own, life after nature
“GROW YOUR OWN… is a new exhibition created by Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin that invites you to consider some of the potentially ground-breaking applications and uncertain implications of synthetic life. Tackling the provocative questions that designing life raises, GROW YOUR OWN… gives you the opportunity to help shape future discussions around synthetic biology – an emerging approach to genetic engineering, bringing together engineers, scientists, designers, artists and biohackers to design ‘living machines’. (Wired)
November 12, 2013
Changing the communication: Polymers disrupt bacterial communication
Artificial materials based on simple synthetic polymers can disrupt the way in which bacteria communicate with each other, a study led by scientists at The University of Nottingham has shown. The findings, published in the journal Nature Chemistry, could further our knowledge on how better to control and exploit bacteria in the future and will have implications for work in the emerging field of synthetic biology. (Phys.org)
November 6, 2013
Will the Nagoya Protocol impact your synthetic biology research?
The United Nations (UN) is working to ensure that the benefits of genetic resources are shared in a fair and equitable way via the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity, though questions remain about how this treaty will impact research in synthetic biology. A new report from the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars looks at how the protocol may affect U.S. researchers working in the field of synthetic biology. (Phys.org)
November 5, 2013
Designer piercings: New membrane pores with DNA nanotechnology
A new way to build membrane-crossing pores, using Lego-like DNA building blocks, has been developed by scientists at UCL, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Cambridge and the University of Southampton. The approach provides a simple and low cost tool for synthetic biology and the technique has potential applications in diagnostic devices and drug discovery. (Phys.org)
October 30, 2013
Synthetic biology’s malaria promises could backfire
Claims about the benefits of a biotech project to make artemisinin are overblown, says Claire Marris. In April, a consortium led by the global health NGO PATH — and comprising the University of California, Berkeley, synthetic biology company Amyris and pharmaceutical firm Sanofi — announced the first industrial production of ‘semi-synthetic artemisinin’. (Sci Dev Net)
October 29, 2013
Grow your own: Where scientists and artists are shaking up creation
From armpit brie to banana flavoured E.coli, artists and bio-hackers have teamed up to push the frontiers of ‘synthetic biology’ in a new exhibition. (The Guardian)
October 28, 2013
Genomics pioneer Craig Venter warns about biohacker boo-boos
In his latest book, genetic guru J. Craig Venter envisions a brave new world where DNA can be teleported between planets and where custom-made bacteria produce drugs, food and biofuel — but he also worries that do-it-yourself biohackers could spoil that vision. “One of the concerns that I address in my book is this new emergence of do-it-at-home biology,” Venter told NBC News. “One important part of scientific training is that scientists learn the boundaries, the safety issues, how to properly deal with and dispose of chemicals and reagents. (NBC News)
October 25, 2013
Companies rush to build ‘bio-factories’ for medicines, flavorings and fuel
Newman’s biotech company is creating new organisms, most forms of genetically modified yeast, at the dizzying rate of more than 1,500 a day. Some convert sugar into medicines. Others create moisturizers that can be used in cosmetics. And still others make biofuel, a renewable energy source usually made from corn. (Washington Post)
October 21, 2013
Scientists recode entire genome of organism: The dawn of synthetic biology?
Like editors trying to improve a poorly-written book, a team of scientists deleted some ‘letters,’ and inserted others, working feverishly to recode the entire genome of an organism. In so doing, they improved a bacterium’s ability to resist viruses. “This is the first time the genetic code has been fundamentally changed,” Farren Isaacs, assistant professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale, stated in a press release. “Creating an organism with a new genetic code has allowed us to expand the scope of biological function in a number of powerful ways.” The research, conducted by scientists in laboratories at Yale and Harvard in the emerging field known as ‘synthetic biology,’ will be published tomorrow in the journal Science. (Medical Daily)
October 18, 2013
Craig Ventor will teleport your DNA
In 2007 J. Craig Venter and his team sequenced an entire human genome—Venter’s own—making scientific history. Three years later his team became the first to successfully create “synthetic life,” and won a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Leadership Award. In his newest book, Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, out Oct. 17, Venter explains the history of the synthetic field and describes how biological engineering could lead to drastic advances in energy generation, food production, and even evolution. PM sat down with Venter to discuss teleportation, alien life, and the future of the human species. (Popular Mechanics)
October 15, 2013
Craig Venter: ‘This isn’t a fantasy look at the future. We are doing the future.’
The pioneering American scientist, who created the world’s first synthetic life, is building a gadget that could teletransport medicine and vaccines into our homes or to colonists in space. (The Guardian)
October 11, 2013
Set a thief…
BIOFILMS are a problem in medicine. When bacteria gang up to form the continuous sheets that bear this name they are far harder to kill with antibiotics than when they just float around as individual cells. Biofilms on devices such as implants are thus difficult to shift, and those growing on the surfaces of human organs are frequently lethal. But Matthew Chang, a biochemical engineer at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has worked out a new way to attack them. His weapon is a different type of bacterium, which he has genetically engineered into a finely honed anti-biofilm missile. (The Economist)
October 10, 2013
A New Edition of Science, Technology and Society is Available
Science, Technology and Society (Volume 18, No. 3, November 2013) is now available online by subscription only.
- “Blastocysts and Family Planning: IVF and Tracking a Developmental Context for Biomedical Research in Singapore (1966–1994)” by John DiMoia
- “Governing International Biobank Collaboration: A Case Study of China Kadoorie Biobank” by Haidan Chen
- “Regulating Respect for the Embryo: Social Mindscapes and Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Japan” by Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner
- “Engineering Biology and Society: Reflections on Synthetic Biology” by Jane Calvert
October 3, 2013
Reprogrammed e. coli could combat bacterial infections
The notorious bacteria E. coli is best known for making people sick, but scientists have reprogrammed the microbe— which also comes in harmless varieties— to make it seek out and fight other disease-causing pathogens. The researchers’ report appears in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology and describes development of this new type of E. coli that can even kill off slimy groups of bacteria called biofilms that are responsible for many hard-to-treat infections, such as those that take hold in the lungs, the bladder and on implanted medical devices. (BioScience Technology)
October 1, 2013
A New Edition of Public Understanding of Science is Available
Public Understanding of Science (Volume 22, No. 7, October 2013) is now available online by subscription only.
- “Scientific authority in policy contexts: Public attitudes about environmental scientists, medical researchers, and economists” by Timothy L. O’Brien
- “Attitudes and attitudinal ambivalence change towards nanotechnology applied to food production” by Arnout R.H. Fischer, et al.
- “Microblogging and nanotweets: Nanotechnology on Twitter” by Giuseppe Alessandro Veltri
- “Playing God or just unnatural? Religious beliefs and approval of synthetic biology” by Nicolas Dragojlovic and Edna Einsiedel
September 17, 2013
A New Edition of Bioethics is Available
Bioethics (Volume 27, Issue 8, October 2013) is now available online by subscription only.
- “Synthetic Biology for Human Health: Issues for Ethical Discussion and Policy-making ” by Nikola Biller-Andorno et al.
- “Do We Have A Moral Obligation to Synthesize Organisms to Increase Biodiversity? On Kinship, Awe, and the Value of Life’s Diversity” by Joachim Boldt.
- “Health as a Property of Engineered Living Systems” by Sune Holm.
- “How to Object to Radically New Technologies on the Basis of Justice: The Case of Synthetic Biology” by David Hunter.
- “Defeating the Argument from Hubris” by Bernard Baertschi.
- “‘Synthetic Biology: A Utilitarian Perspective” by Kevin Smith.