Synthetic biologists have developed DNA modules that perform logic operations in living cells. These ‘genetic circuits’ could be used to track key moments in a cell’s life or, at the flick of a chemical switch, change a cell’s fate, the researchers say. Their results are described this week in Nature Biotechnology.
Synthetic biology seeks to bring concepts from electronic engineering to cell biology, treating gene functions as components in a circuit. To that end, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge have devised a set of simple genetic modules that respond to inputs much like the Boolean logic gates used in computers.
Excerpt from an article written by Roland Pease at Nature. Continue HERE
The most disruptive force on the planet resides in DNA. Biotech companies and academic researchers are just beginning to unlock the potential of piecing together life from scratch. Champions of synthetic biology believe that turning genetic code into Lego-like blocks to build never-before-seen organisms could solve the thorniest challenges in medicine, energy, and environmental protection. But as the hackers who cracked open the potential of the personal computer and the Internet proved, the most revolutionary discoveries often emerge from out-of-the-way places, forged by brilliant outsiders with few resources besides boundless energy and great ideas.
In Biopunk, Marcus Wohlsen chronicles a growing community of DIY scientists working outside the walls of corporations and universities who are committed to democratizing DNA the way the Internet did information. The “biohacking” movement, now in its early, heady days, aims to unleash an outbreak of genetically modified innovation by making the tools and techniques of biotechnology accessible to everyone. Borrowing their idealism from the worlds of open-source software, artisinal food, Internet startups and the Peace Corps, biopunks are devoted advocates for open-sourcing the basic code of life. They believe in the power of individuals with access to DNA to solve the world’s biggest problems.
You’ll meet a new breed of hackers who aren’t afraid to get their hands wet, from entrepreneurs who aim to bring DNA-based medical tools to the poorest of the poor to a curious tinkerer who believes a tub of yogurt and a jellyfish gene could protect the world’s food supply. These biohackers include:
• A duo who started a cancer drug company in their kitchen
• A team who built an open-source DNA Xeroxing machine
• A woman who developed a genetic test in her apartment for a deadly disease that has stricken her family
Along with the potential of citizen science to bring about radical change, Wohlsen explores the risks of DIY bioterrorism; the possibility of cv gone awry; and whether the ability to design life from scratch on a laptop might come sooner than we think.
Text and Image via Marcus Wohlsen.
Script by Claudia Vickers, Animation by Orlando Mee, Produced by Stephan Kern.
Our built environment doesn’t have to be static. With the right synthetic biology, it can respond automatically to changes in temperature or moisture level, and even react to natural disasters, hunkering down during earthquakes or removing toxins after a toxic spill.
Synthetic-biology-based approaches to design practices, which have a material engagement with design and engineering practices, propose a new set of conditions in which architectures can alter their characteristics to suit changing environmental conditions. Living materials raise the possibility that buildings can make a positive impact on their local surroundings by performing remedial functions, that the construction of architecture could actually heal a stressed environment, for example, by removing toxins or fixing greenhouse gases. These new technologies could be on building exteriors, which present a managed interface with the environment.
Responsive architectures that are sensitive to their local environment can revitalize cities and equip communities with the ability to deal with and recover from radical disturbances in their surroundings, such as a natural disaster. Indeed, all cities should be designed with environmental crises in mind, whether they have reached the proportions of a megacity or not. Densely populated areas need to be considered potential disaster zones, where living spaces are at risk from the accumulation of toxic waste and from physical damage as a consequence of our unstable Earth. Given the present environmental challenges and worldwide population growth, fundamental changes in the expectations of buildings must be considered globally. This is a more urgent and radical requirement than current notions of sustainable development that pander to industrial developers; it promotes and demands an immediate rethinking of the way that we build our homes and cities. The strategic use of these new materials, woven into the substance of the urban landscape on building surfaces and into structural fabrics, provides an opportunity for buildings to actively participate in environmental challenges.
This installation was created with protocells, DNA-less chemical systems that can be programmed to form structures. Is this what you’re going to live in in the future?
Text and images via Co.Exist. Continue HERE