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Biotechnology


Latest significant advancements in biotechnology. Reporting on the far-reaching impacts of biotechnology on society and humanity.

A One-and-Done CRISPR Gene Therapy Will Aim to Prevent Heart Attacks

In a few months, a daring clinical trial may fundamentally lower heart attack risk in the most vulnerable people. If all goes well, it will just take one shot. It’s no ordinary shot. The trial,...

A Virus Just Wiped Out Antibiotic-Resistant Infection in an Immunocompromised Patient

When Dr. Jessica Little laid eyes on the 56-year-old man, Mr. M, she immediately knew he was in bad shape. Striking, painful red welts dotted his entire arm. He knew the cause of his rashes:...

Scientists Are Using CRISPR Gene Editing to Try to Create Hypoallergenic Cats

There’s been a lot of buzz in the last few years about the perils of using CRISPR gene editing on human germline cells—the reproductive cells that determine the DNA of every other cell in...

Scientists Used Cellular Rejuvenation Therapy to Rewind Aging in Mice

At roughly 70 years human age, the mice looked elderly and unremarkable. Yet hidden underneath was a youthful cellular clock, turned back in time based on a Nobel-Prize-winning strategy. It’s also the latest bet...

Redesigned CRISPR Gene Editing Tool Is 4,000 Times Less Error-Prone

CRISPR gene editing holds huge promise for tackling a wide range of inherited diseases, but concerns about unintended “off target” effects have slowed its rollout. A redesigned CRISPR system could finally have a practical...

This Algorithm Designs Proteins From Scratch to Accelerate Drug Discovery

The proteins that control our lives are like rolling tumbleweeds. Each has a tangled, unique shape, with spiky side-branches dotting its surface. Hidden in the nooks and crannies are the locks to battle our...

Moderna Will Develop mRNA Vaccines for 15 of the World’s Worst Diseases

To much of the world, it seemed like the Covid-19 vaccines were whipped up in less than a year—an amazing feat of science and biotechnology if ever there was one. While the vaccines did...

CRISPR On-Off Switch Will Help Unlock the Secrets of Our Immune System

T cells are fierce warriors. With just a hint of an attack—be it an infection or a nascent cancer—they rally, ramp up in numbers, and launch a full-scale defense. But they’re not invincible. Sometimes the...

The Most Complete Digital Replica of a Living Cell Yet Grows Like the Real Thing

Scientists have long made digital simulations of the universe on the grandest scales. Now they're turning their attention to smaller systems—though those systems are no less grand. The cells in our bodies are like their...

How the Newly Decoded Numbat Genome Could Help Bring the Tasmanian Tiger Back From Extinction

It used to be the stuff of science fiction: bringing a long-dead species back from extinction by painstakingly piecing together its full DNA sequence, or genome. It’s not quite as straightforward as Jurassic Park would...

Rapid DNA Sequencing Tech Breaks the Speed Record for Reading Whole Genomes

For children suffering from rare diseases, it usually takes years to receive a diagnosis. This “diagnostic odyssey” is filled with multiple referrals and a barrage of tests, seeking to uncover the root cause behind...

Scientists Chasing Artificial Kidneys Create Most Complex Kidney Tissue Yet

Over 93,000 people in the US are in need of a kidney transplant. Our kidneys are delicate organs that can be damaged by a poor diet, overuse of alcohol or anti-inflammatory drugs, and high...

After First Pig-to-Human Heart Transplant, Scientists Aim to Make It Routine

Jan 7, 2022 marked a medical breakthrough. For the first time ever, surgeons transplanted a genetically modified pig heart into a living human. Two weeks later, David Bennett is doing well, with the heart...

New Virus-Like Particles Can Deliver CRISPR to Any Cell in the Body

Gene therapy is a lot like landing a Mars rover. Hear me out. The cargo—a rover or gene editing tools—is stuffed inside a highly technical protective ship and shot into a vast, complex space targeting...

Breakthrough Shot of Engineered Immune Cells Helps Heal Heart Damage

It’s now possible to transform immune cells directly into “super soldiers” inside the body. I’m talking about CAR-T, the immunotherapy that revolutionized blood cancer treatment. Here, a person’s immune T cells are removed from the...

These 2021 Biotech Breakthroughs Will Shape the Future of Health and Medicine

It’s that time of year again! With 2021 behind us, we’re going down memory lane to highlight biotech innovations that shaped the year—with impact that will likely reverberate for many years to come. Covid-19...

Scientists Used CRISPR Gene Editing to Choose the Sex of Mouse Pups

“Do you want a boy or a girl?” can be an awkward question. But in certain circles, it’s a question that’s asked every day. Take agriculture. In a perfect world, most cows would only birth...

Decades-Old ‘Water Pill’ Opens New Avenues for Alzheimer’s Treatment

The cause of Alzheimer’s was supposedly simple. Mangled proteins aggregate into tangles and clumps. These clumps overwhelm neurons. Neurons lose their function and eventually die, leading to cognitive troubles that are the hallmark of...

Scientists 3D-Print Programmable Living Structures With New Microbial Ink

Our mastery of biology has improved dramatically in recent decades, but we are still largely restricted to nature's repertoire of forms. That could be about to change with the creation of a living ink...

AI Can Now Model the Molecular Machines That Govern All Life

Thanks to deep learning, the central mysteries of structural biology are falling like dominos. Just last year, DeepMind shocked the biomedical field with AlphaFold, an algorithm that predicts protein structures with jaw-dropping accuracy. The University...

Super-Precise CRISPR Gene Editing Tool Is Set to Tackle Tough Genetic Diseases

For all its supposed genetic editing finesse, CRISPR’s a brute. The Swiss Army knife of gene editing tools chops up DNA strands to insert genetic changes. What’s called “editing” is actually genetic vandalism—pick a...

Moonshot Project Aims to Understand and Beat Cancer Using Protein Maps

Understanding cancer is like assembling IKEA furniture. Hear me out. Both start with individual pieces that make up the final product. For a cabinet, it’s a list of labeled precut plywood. For cancer, it’s a...

Scientists Completed the First Human Genome 20 Years Ago. How Far Have We Come, and What’s Next?

If the Human Genome Project (HGP) was an actual human, he or she would be a revolutionary whiz kid. A prodigy in the vein of Mozart. One who changed the biomedical universe forever as...

Scientists Create Artificial Mitochondria That Can Make Energy for Damaged Cells

Cells like to gulp and burp. It’s not indigestion. Rather, cells squeeze out little fatty blobs that can merge with another cell as a way to share materials and information. It’s an integral part...

The CRISPR Family Tree Holds a Multitude of Untapped Gene Editing Tools

Thanks to CRISPR, gene therapy and “designer babies” are now a reality. The gene editing Swiss army knife is one of the most impactful biomedical discoveries of the last decade. Now a new study...

Gene Therapies Are Almost Here, But Healthcare Isn’t Ready for Sky-High Prices

Zolgensma—which treats spinal muscular atrophy, a rare genetic disease that damages nerve cells, leading to muscle decay—is currently the most expensive drug in the world. A one-time treatment of the life-saving drug for a...

New Mini-CRISPR Systems Could Dramatically Expand the Scope of Gene Therapy

CRISPR has revolutionized genome engineering, but the size of its molecular gene-editing components has limited its therapeutic uses so far. Now, a trio of new research papers detail compact versions of the gene-editing tool...

Deep Learning Is Tackling Another Core Biology Mystery: RNA Structure

Deep learning is solving biology’s deepest secrets at breathtaking speed. Just a month ago, DeepMind cracked a 50-year-old grand challenge: protein folding. A week later, they produced a totally transformative database of more than 350,000...

Surprise! Our Bodies Have Been Hiding a Trojan Horse for Gene Therapy

Nature hides astonishing medical breakthroughs. Take CRISPR, the transformative gene editing tool. It was inspired by a lowly bacterial immune defense system and co-opted to edit our genes to treat inherited diseases, bolster cancer treatments,...

Moderna’s mRNA Vaccine for HIV Is Starting Human Trials

Before 2020, many of us had never heard of mRNA. With the development of Covid-19 vaccines dependent on this molecule, though, it was all over the news. Covid was the first disease mRNA therapeutics...

Molecular Farming Means the Next Vaccine Could Be Edible and Grown in a Plant

It’s the dog days of summer. You bite down on a plump, chilled orange. Citrus juice explodes in your mouth in a refreshing, tingling burst. Ahh. And congratulations—you’ve just been vaccinated for the latest virus. That’s...

A Secret to Healthy Aging May Be the Bugs in Your Microbiome

The group of Japanese centenarians had seemingly magical health powers. Sure, with an average age of 107, they’re among the longest-living humans on Earth. But they were also shockingly healthy, protected from chronic diseases that...

New ‘Universal Switch’ Lets Scientists Fine-Tune Gene Therapy

The dose makes the poison. That’s the central tenet of pharmacology. Even salt can kill you if you take too little or too much. The one transformative treatment that hasn’t followed this rule? Gene therapy. It’s...

Scientists Bred Healthy Mice Using Artificial Eggs and Ovaries Made From Stem Cells

The baby mice popcorning around their cages looked utterly normal. But in fact, they’re a technological wonder: they were born from bioengineered eggs matured inside a man-made ovary. Even crazier, both the eggs and...

‘Next-Generation’ Total Artificial Heart Successfully Transplanted into First US Patient

Late last year, a French company called Carmat received approval in Europe for its total artificial heart. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a heart made of synthetic and biological materials intended for implantation...

Breakthrough CRISPR Gene Therapy Could Be a ‘One and Done’ Injection

CRISPR gene editing has had a big decade. The technology, which earned two of its discovers a Nobel Prize in 2020, can target and edit genes more easily than its predecessors. Still, as tantalizing...

Each of These Microscopic Glass Beads Stores an Image Encoded on a Strand of DNA

Increasingly, civilization’s information is stored digitally, and that storage is abundant and growing. We don't bother deleting those seven high-definition videos of the ceiling or 20 blurry photos of a table corner taken by...

Why It Took 20 Years to ‘Finish’ the Human Genome—and Why There’s Still More to Do

The release of the draft human genome sequence in 2001 was a seismic moment in our understanding of the human genome, and paved the way for advances in our understanding of the genomic basis...

Scientists Used CRISPR to Engineer a New ‘Superbug’ That’s Invincible to All Viruses

Can we reprogram existing life at will? To synthetic biologists, the answer is yes. The central code for biology is simple. DNA letters, in groups of three, are translated into amino acids—Lego blocks that make...

How Gene Therapy and Algae Proteins Partially Restored a Blind Man’s Sight

Thanks to gene therapy and optogenetics—a neuroscience game-changer that relies on light to control neurons—a previously blind man can now partially see the world. And he’s doing it with the help of light-sensing algae...

A New Gene Editing Tool Could Rival CRISPR, and Makes Millions of Edits at Once

With CRISPR’s meteoric rise as a gene editing marvel, it’s easy to forget its lowly origins: it was first discovered as a quirk of the bacterial immune system. It seems that bacteria have more to...

Scientists Grew Human Cells in Monkey Embryos, and Yes, It’s an Ethical Minefield

Few things in science freak people out more than human-animal hybrids. Named chimeras, after the mythical Greek creature that’s an amalgam of different beasts, these part-human, part-animal embryos have come onto the scene to...

A Massive New Gene Editing Project Is Out to Crush Alzheimer’s

When it comes to Alzheimer’s versus science, science is on the losing side. Alzheimer’s is cruel in the most insidious way. The disorder creeps up in some aging brains, gradually eating away at their ability...

How Scientists Grew Human Muscles in Pig Embryos, and Why It Matters for Organ Transplants

The little pigs bouncing around the lab looked exceedingly normal. Yet their adorable exterior hid a remarkable secret: each piglet carried two different sets of genes. For now, both sets came from their own...

Xenobots 2.0: These Living Robots Self-Assemble From Frog Skin Cells

The line between animals and machines was already getting blurry after a team of scientists and roboticists unveiled the first living robots last year. Now the same team has released version 2.0 of their...

Scientists Created an Artificial Early Embryo From Human Skin Cells

We all know how human reproduction works: sperm meets egg, fertilized egg kicks off its journey, transforms into a human embryo, then becomes a fetus and ultimately a baby. But what if boy meets girl...

3 Medical Innovations Fueled by Covid-19 That Will Outlast the Pandemic

A number of technologies and tools got a chance to prove themselves for the first time in the context of Covid-19. Three researchers working in gene-based vaccines, wearable diagnostics, and drug discovery explain how...

How an Israeli Startup Is Using AI to Help People Make Babies

The first baby conceived using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) was born in the UK in 1978. Over 40 years later, the technique has become commonplace, but its success rate is still fairly low at around...

Scientists Made a Biohybrid Nose Using Cells From Mosquitoes

Thanks to biological parts of a mosquito’s “nose,” we’re finally closer to Smell-O-Vision for computers. And a way to diagnose early cancer. With the recent explosion in computing hardware prowess and AI, we’ve been able...

No Trees Harmed: MIT Aims to One Day Grow Your Kitchen Table in a Lab

You’ve likely heard the buzz around lab-grown (or cultured) meat. We can now take a few cells from a live animal and grow those cells into a piece of meat. The process is kinder...

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