In the twentieth century, oil was black gold. But as we march deeper into the twenty-first century, we could have a lucrative new fuel on our hands. One that’s blue-green and sometimes a little smelly. It’s found in wastewater, but it’s capable of powering jets. It’s algae.
Twenty five years ago, Michael Crichton captured our imaginations with the crazy idea that scientists might one day resurrect dinosaurs. But on the eve of Jurassic World’s release a quarter century later, the prospect of bringing back extinct creatures is looking a lot less science fictional. »
Yeast labs have a distinctive smell—a bready scent familiar to bakers and brewers. But the frozen test tube of yeast I held at Ginkgo Bioworks had a fragrance crisp and pear-like. It was definitely yeast, but it had been genetically engineered to smell like no yeast has ever smelled. »
Breakthroughs in synthetic biology have suggested a bizarre and realistic possibility for the future of black market drug trade. Genetically-altered yeast could be used to make opiates for hospitals seeking a source of the painkillers — and then appropriated by drug dealers who want to homebrew heroin. »
The fear of genetically-modified creatures escaping from the lab is the basis for a thousand sci-fi stories, but it’s also a legitimate concern. That’s why genetic engineers are inventing kill switches, or genetically-encoded suicide triggers, for GMOs they want to keep contained. Here’s how they work.
We love to imagine how biotechnology might one day enhance our fleshy bodies, but too often, Earth’s wildlife are left out of the future entirely. Enter Kathryn Fleming’s future zoo, filled with a menagerie of fantastical, slightly disturbing, genetically modified mutants. »
It's probably true that every generation thinks it'll be the last—I mean, the Doomsday Clock has been ticking since 1947. And though I accused us millennials earlier today of being the "generation that cried apocalypse," I fully admit there are some damn legit reasons for that cry currently brewing. »
E. coli is an exceedingly common bacteria that lives in many places including your very own gut. It's also a favorite organism for synthetic biologists looking to engineer useful microbes. By inserting just a few genes in E. coli, scientists have found they can coax the bacterium into making ready-to-use propane. »
Ever since humans first noticed the mind-altering effects of poppies, we've planted vast fields of the flowers to make drugs that range from the legal (morphine) to the illegal (heroin). Some of our strongest legitimate painkillers still originate in these large, unwieldy, and pesky-to-regulate poppy fields. But what… »
After 15 years of work, scientists have successfully created a living cell that contains two unnatural DNA building blocks. The breakthrough brings us one step closer to being able to synthesize cells that can produce drugs on demand. It even opens the door to a future where we could create life that's unlike anything… »
Science, man. An international team of scientists have made a major breakthrough in synthetic biology. For the first time ever, they were able to insert a man-made, custom-built chromosome into brewer's yeast to not only create a life form but one that also passes down its man-made genes to its offspring. We're closer… »
Folks often shy away from fancy cheese because it smells like feet. But what if the cheese was actually made from feet—or rather, the bacteria that makes your feet stink? A couple of bio-hacker artists decided to explore that possibility. And it sounds really gross. »
Bacteria has the virtue (and sometimes the vice) of being able to grow at incredible speeds—some strains can double in cell count in as little as four minutes. Fernan Federici, a postdoctoral student at the University of Cambridge, is pioneering the art of capturing the split-second process. And the results are… »
We are at a biological turning point: We can invent organisms to make our drugs and fuel, even recode our DNA. It's easy to run away screaming, but author Michael Specter says we have to quit whining and face it. »