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Biotechnology


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

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...

This Artificial Heart Will Soon Be on the Market in Europe

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the world, particularly in the US and Western Europe. Medical science has come up with some ingenious solutions to common heart problems, like...

A Language AI Is Accurately Predicting Covid-19 ‘Escape’ Mutations

For all their simplicity, viruses are sneaky little life forces. Take SARS-Cov-2, the virus behind Covid-19. Challenged with the human immune system, the virus has gradually reshuffled parts of its genetic material, making it easier...

New Research Could Enable Direct Data Transfer From Computers to Living Cells

As the modern world produces ever more data, researchers are scrambling to find new ways to store it all. DNA holds promise as an extremely compact and stable storage medium, and now a new...

Fighting Covid-19 Brought These Lasting Breakthroughs to Science and Medicine

2020 was the year of the pandemic. But the arrival of Covid-19 in January not only threw an Earth-sized wrench into our lives, it also dictated the course of scientific discovery. Never before have...

2020 in Neuroscience, Longevity, and AI—and What’s to Come

Covid-19 sucked most of the oxygen out of science this year. But we still had brilliant wins. The pandemic couldn’t bring rockets or humans down: multiple missions blasted off to the red planet in the...

DeepMind’s AlphaFold Is Close to Solving One of Biology’s Greatest Challenges

DeepMind may just have cracked one of the grandest challenges in biology. One that rivals the discovery of DNA’s double helix. It could change biomedicine, drug discovery, and vaccine development forever. The actual achievement sounds...

Another Win for Senolytics: Fighting Aging at the Cellular Level Just Got Easier

Longevity research always reminds me of the parable of blind men and an elephant. A group of blind men, who’ve never seen an elephant before, each touches a different part of the elephant’s body...

Can We Wipe Out All Coronaviruses for Good? Here’s What a Group of 200 Scientists Think

One vaccine to rule them all. That was the blue sky goal for a new global collaboration with hopes to beat coronaviruses. I’m not just talking about SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for our current...

How Machine Learning Made Hops-Free Hoppy Beer (and Other SynBio Wonders) Possible

Synthetic biology is like a reality-altering version of Minecraft. Rather than digital blocks, synthetic biology rejiggers the basic building blocks of life—DNA, proteins, biochemical circuits—to rewire living organisms or even build entirely new ones....

Oxford Scientists: These Are Final Steps We’re Taking to Get Our Coronavirus Vaccine Approved

Of the hundreds of potential Covid-19 vaccines in development, six are in the final stages of testing, known as phase three clinical trials. One of these—ChAdOx1 nCoV-19—is the vaccine we’re developing at the University...

Stream or Skip? A Synthetic Biologist’s Review of ‘Biohackers’ on Netflix

Glow-in-the-dark mice, gene-modded weed, and payment microchips in your hand? That's the surprisingly realistic science backdrop of Biohackers, but that's where it stays. Biohackers, the six-episode German sci-fi series set in Freiburg, was released on...

Scientists Used Protein Switches to Turn T Cells Into Cancer-Fighting Guided Missiles

One of the main challenges in curing cancer is that unlike foreign invaders, tumor cells are part of the body and so able to hide in plain sight. Now researchers have found a way...

Biotechnology Could Change the Cattle Industry. Will It Succeed?

When Ralph Fisher, a Texas cattle rancher, set eyes on one of the world’s first cloned calves in August 1999, he didn’t care what the scientists said: He knew it was his old Brahman...

Scientists Gene-Hack Cotton Plants to Make Them Every Color of the Rainbow

Imagine this: You’re on a drive through cotton country. The sun’s out, top’s down. It’s a beautiful, totally normal day. Only, what was once a sea of white puff balls has transformed into a...

A Year After Gene Therapy, Boys With Muscular Dystrophy Are Healthier and Stronger

Two and a half years ago, a study published in Science Advances detailed how the gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas-9 repaired genetic mutations related to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). The study was a proof of...

How Fake Viruses Can Help Us Make the Best Possible Vaccines

Roughly 15 years ago, in a seeming prank, a pair of smiley faces graced the cover of Nature, one of the world’s preeminent science journals. Flash forward to today, and those smiley faces may...

Scientists 3D Printed Ears Inside Living Mice Using Light

Tissue engineering just got wilder and weirder. Using nothing but light and bioink, scientists were able to directly print a human ear-like structure under the skin of mice. The team used a healthy ear as...

Artificial Kidneys Are a Step Closer With This New Tech

10 percent of the global population suffers from some form of kidney disease. That includes 37 million people in the US, 100,000 of whom pass away each year awaiting a kidney transplant. Our kidneys are...

A New Bionic Eye Could Give Robots and the Blind 20/20 Vision

A bionic eye could restore sight to the blind and greatly improve robotic vision, but current visual sensors are a long way from the impressive attributes of nature’s design. Now researchers have found a...

Scientists Are Cloning the Coronavirus Like Crazy. Here’s Why—and the Risks

Most biomedical researchers are busy finding ways to squash the new coronavirus. Meanwhile, synthetic biologists are busy cloning it in droves. In late February a team from the University of Bern, led by Dr. Volker...

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