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Biotechnology


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

How a New Smart Skin Patch Uses Vibrations to Track Your Health

Wearables are so common these days we rarely give them second thought. Yet packed into FitBits and Apple Watches are multiple tiny, sensitive sensors that monitor your steps, heart rate, sleep and—with your input—even...

How Scientists Grew Perfect New Lungs in Mouse Embryos

Unless you or a loved one are a smoker, lung health probably never got on your radar. But the recent spike in deadly vaping-related lung diseases—some requiring lung transplants—make it clear: as a society,...

How Much Can We Delay Aging? A Gene Therapy Trial Is About to Find Out

Aging is reversible. It’s still a somewhat controversial idea in humans. Yet recent attempts at delaying—or even reversing—diseases that pop up with age in animals clearly show that health doesn’t necessarily decline with age. The...

Why Designing Our Own Biology Will Be the Next Big Thing in Medicine

It’s hard to watch a loved one get sick. Their eyes go glassy. Their breathing is punctuated by body-wracking coughs. Feverish and aching, they struggle to get out of bed. Hard as these symptoms are...

Everything You Need to Know About Superstar CRISPR Prime Editing

All right, let’s do this one last time. My name is CRISPR. I was made from a bacterial defense system, and for years I’ve been the one and only gene editing wunderkind. I’m pretty...

Animals Are Out, Alt Protein Is in—and It’s Cooking Up Some Unbelievable Creations

A new food economy is taking root. It’s showing up in the dairy section of grocery stores and in the drive-thrus of Burger King. Plant-based milk, meat, and even sushi are appearing more regularly...

Scientists Found New Antibiotic Molecules—Right In the Human Microbiome

The human microbiome is the dark matter of biology: we know it’s there and critically balances health from disease. We can broadly examine microbe members with advanced DNA sequencing methods and infer their species...

How a Centuries-Old Sculpting Method Is Helping 3D Print Organs With Blood Vessels

Blood vessels are the lifeline of any organ. The dense web of channels, spread across tissues like a spider web, allow oxygen and nutrients to reach the deepest cores of our hearts, brains, and lungs....

Cellular Computers Get a Boost With CRISPR

Cancer’s impenetrable secrets partly rely on its mysterious molecular history. As cells turn to the dark side, a whirlwind of DNA changes gradually accumulate. Like flipping multiple interlinked light switches, the cell gradually changes its...

California Passed the Country’s First Law to Prevent Genetic Biohacking

Genetic engineering technologies are quickly becoming mature and cheap enough for people to start using them in their own homes. That’s got scientists and officials worried, and California has now passed the first bill...

This CAR-T Tag-Team Could Wipe Out HIV for Good

CAR-T may have made its name as the cancer breakthrough of this century, but its roots dig far back to one of humanity’s other terrifying medical nemeses: HIV. This week, Lengtigen, a biotech company based...

Wait, What? The First Human-Monkey Hybrid Embryo Was Just Created in China

Last week, news broke that a prominent stem cell researcher is making human-monkey chimeras in a secretive lab in China. The story, first reported by the Spanish newspaper El País, has all the ingredients of...

Where Death Ends and Cyborgs Begin, With Futurist Zoltan Istvan

Transhumanism is a growing movement but also one of the most controversial. Though there are many varying offshoots within the movement, the general core idea is the same: evolve and enhance human beings by...

Scientists Just Released a New Playbook for Engineering Longer, Healthier Lives

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment anti-aging research morphed from quackery to an established science. Some say it’s 1939, when an experiment that restricted calories in rodents bizarrely increased their lifespan. Others argue...

First Human CRISPR Trial in the US Aims to Cure Inherited Blindness

Gene editing is advancing at a faster pace than most of us can keep up with. One significant recent announcement was gene editing tool CRISPR’s application to non-genetic diseases thanks to a new ability...

How Will We Store Three Septillion Bits of Data? Your Metabolome May Have the Answer

Thanks to the cloud, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever run out of data storage. But by 2040, we may be swarmed by three septillion bits of data, and Earth will run out...

So Far Cultured Meat Has Been Burgers—the Next Big Challenge Is Animal-Free Steaks

The meat you eat, if you’re a carnivore, comes from animal muscles. But animals are composed of a lot more than just muscle. They have organs and bones that most Americans do not consume....

The Pentagon’s New Laser-Based Tool Uses Your Heartbeat to Track You

The government’s hefty arsenal of surveillance tools just welcomed a powerful new member. Rather than monitoring an external device—a bug or a smartphone—or even the exterior features of your face, the new tech aims...

Cancer-Killing Living Drug Is Made Safer With a Simple Off Switch

When it comes to battling cancer, our most powerful weapon is also our most dangerous. You’ve heard of CAR-T: the cellular immunotherapy extracts a patient’s own immune cells, amps up their tumor-hunting prowess using gene...

This Radical New DNA Microscope Reimagines the Cellular World

It’s not every day that something from the 17th century gets radically reinvented. But this month, a team from the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard took aim at one of the most iconic pieces...

This Lab-Grown Patch Could Repair Your Heart After a Heart Attack

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US for both men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 735,00 Americans have a heart attack each year, and...

New Progress in Stem-Cell-Free Regenerative Medicine

Regenerative medicine and stem cells are often uttered within the same breath, for good reason. In animal models, stem cells have reliably reversed brain damage from Parkinson’s disease, repaired severed spinal cords, or restored damaged...

New Progress in the Biggest Challenge With 3D Printed Organs

We're tantalizingly close to growing organs in the lab, but the biggest remaining challenge has been creating the fine networks of blood vessels required to keep them alive. Now researchers have shown that a...

New Lifelike Biomaterial Self-Regenerates and Has a Metabolism

Life demands flux. Every living organism is constantly changing: cells divide and die, proteins build and disintegrate, DNA breaks and heals. Life demands metabolism—the simultaneous builder and destroyer of living materials—to continuously upgrade our bodies....

As We Democratize Biology, We Must Avoid Biologizing Democracy

Technology is rapidly being demonetized and democratized, and that includes biotechnology. Almost anyone can now access and apply powerful biotech tools like genetic testing for a broad range of purposes. In addition, recent scientific...

The Tangled Web of Turning Spider Silk Into a Super Material

Spider-Man is one of the most popular superheroes of all time. It’s a bit surprising given that one of the more common phobias is arachnophobia—a debilitating fear of spiders. Perhaps more fantastical is that young...

Synthetic Cell Component Expands the Code of Life in Complex Cells

Two billion years ago, on a geochemically bubbly youth Earth, a simple bacteria engulfed its neighbor. Rather than dissolving into nutrients, against all odds the eaten organism formed a symbiotic partnership with its host...

A Birth Control Pill for Men Is One Step Closer

Women have long borne the brunt of contraception responsibilities, but this may be shifting in coming years. A new trial published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism details strides made by researchers...

How Engineered Nanoparticles Gave Mice Infrared Vision

Efforts to use technology to enhance humans’ natural capabilities are moving out of the scientific fringes. A recent study on mice suggests it may eventually be possible to imbue people with infrared vision by...

Graphene Shows Promise for Repairing Broken Bones

When you were a kid, did you ever sign a classmate’s cast after they broke an arm or a leg? Your name would be on display there for the rest of the semester. Broken...

Scientists Just Added Four New Letters to the Genetic Code

A four-letter alphabet might seem limited, but it’s all nature needed to write the instructions for all life on the planet. News that researchers have added four letters to the genetic alphabet opens the...

Demystifying GMOs: New Research Shows Unexpected Changes in Plant DNA

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are one of the most contentious topics in science today. But a study from the Salk Institute, published last month in PLOS Genetics, may help clear up some of the...

Gene Drives Survived a Proposed UN Ban in 2018—What’s Next?

In September 2018, a lab-based study published in Nature Biotechnology confirmed what many had long believed possible. The experiment involved cages of a few hundred mosquitoes, free to fly around and reproduce—but with a...

Disrupting Reproduction: Two New Advances in Tech-Assisted Baby-Making

Last week, news of CRISPR-engineered babies launched a firestorm of debate on the future of human reproduction: Is it safe? Is it ethical? Do we now have the ability to “play God”? But even as...

CRISPR Babies: Stumbling Over Mankind’s Next Giant Leap

During the last weekend in November, MIT Tech Review broke a world-changing story: the birth of the first children to have undergone gene editing as embryos. The Associated Press swiftly followed with a longer...

Welcome to the CRISPR Baby World—Here’s What You Should Know

Last week, the gene editing world was hit by news the equivalent of a nuclear bomb. In a video on YouTube, Dr. Jiankui He at Southern University of Science and Technology in China revealed that...

Ears Grown From Apples? The Promise of Plants for Engineering Human Tissue

Inspiration for game-changing science can seemingly come from anywhere. A moldy bacterial plate gave us the first antibiotic, penicillin. Zapping yeast with a platinum electrode led to a powerful chemotherapy drug, cisplatin. For Dr. Andrew...

Science vs. Superbugs: A New Wave of Solutions Is On the Way

Hollywood is chockablock with movies about zombie apocalypses caused by some uncontrollable infection, while alarming real-world headlines proclaim the next superbug is just around the corner. It’s a wonder we’re not all germaphobes on...

Healthy Mice Born From Same-Sex Parents For the First Time

When scientists made immature human egg cells from donated blood, some speculated that human reproduction was on the verge of a massive disruption. The future is now. Last week, a team from China completely overhauled natural...

Human Immature Eggs Made From Blood Cells for the First Time

We all know how babies are made: sperm meets egg, molecular magic happens, and an entire human comes to life from a single cell. But is that the only way? For a decade, scientists have been...

New Technique Heals Wounds With Reprogrammed Skin Cells

People with severe burns, bedsores, or chronic diseases such as diabetes are at risk for developing wounds known as cutaneous ulcers, which can extend through multiple layers of the skin. Apart from being extremely painful,...

Eternal Life Is No Good Without Eternal Youth

Longer lives seem attractive, but as we age we become susceptible to a host of late-life diseases that can prevent us from enjoying our later years. But science is beginning to create ways to...

Would You Eat ‘Meat’ from a Lab? Consumers Aren’t Necessarily Sold on ‘Cultured Meat’

It’s been a busy summer for food-based biotech. The US Food and Drug Administration made headlines when it approved the plant-based “Impossible Burger,” which relies on an ingredient from genetically modified yeast for its...

Landmark FDA Approval Brings Powerful Gene Silencing Method to Market

Earlier this month, the FDA approved an entirely new family of drugs, one so powerful that it could put CRISPR-based gene therapy to shame. Backed by two decades of research and a Nobel Prize,...

Newly-Decoded Wheat Genome Opens the Door to Engineering Superfoods

Tweaking the DNA of crops to make them hardier and more productive is one of the most promising applications of gene-editing technology. That’s not been possible with wheat because its complex genome has proved...

If We Made Life in a Lab, Would We Understand It Differently?

What is life? For much of the 20th century, this question did not particularly concern biologists. Life is a term for poets, not scientists, argued the synthetic biologist Andrew Ellington in 2008, who began...

CAR-T May Be a Silver Bullet Against Cancer—and Here’s What Else It Can Do

CAR-T is the super-soldier serum of cell therapy: you pluck out an immune cell soldier, inject it with a dose of new genes, and send the enhanced cell back into the host body—bam! Suddenly...

Successfully Transplanted Lab-Grown Pig Lungs Take Us Closer to Custom Organs

Being able to grow new organs from a patient's own cells could revolutionize both the safety and availability of transplants. Scientists have now overcome major hurdles in the realization of the technology—but in pigs. Someone...

DNA Computing Gets a Boost With This Machine Learning Hack

As the master code of life, DNA can do a lot of things. Inheritance. Gene therapy. Wipe out an entire species. Solve logic problems. Recognize your sloppy handwriting. Wait, What? In a brilliant study published in...

New Study Sounds a Note of Caution in the Development of CRISPR Gene Therapies

The discovery of CRISPR gene editing technology led many to believe we may soon be able to tweak our DNA with ultra-high accuracy. But a new study has found it can cause more unintended...

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