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Biotechnology


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

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...

This Drug Combo Extends Lifespan and Healthspan in Mice by Killing ‘Zombie’ Cells

Aging may seem like the most natural—and inevitable—thing in life. Yet according to a new study in Nature Medicine, rejuvenating an aging body may be as easy as kitchen renovations. Simply swap drill and...

New DNA Synthesis Method Could Soon Build a Genome in a Day

Synthetic biologists are the computer programmers of biology. Their code? DNA. The whole enterprise sounds fantastical: you insert new snippets of DNA code—in the form of a chain of A, T, C, G letters—into an...

Three Huge Ways Tech Is Overhauling Healthcare

We are on the brink of a revolution in healthcare. AI is making the drug discovery process >100X faster and cheaper, and 90 percent more likely to succeed in clinical trials. Mobile health is...

What Makes People Distrust Science? Surprisingly, Not Politics

Today, there is a crisis of trust in science. Many people—including politicians and, yes, even presidents—publicly express doubts about the validity of scientific findings. Meanwhile, scientific institutions and journals express their concerns about the...

Pioneering Stem Cell Trial Seeks to Cure Babies Before Birth

Even before she was born, Elianna Constantino had already cheated death. Elianna has a rare inherited blood disorder called alpha thalassemia major, which prevents her red blood cells from forming properly. The disease, which has...

How Cyanobacteria Could Help Save the Planet

It’s very easy to forget that complex life on Earth almost missed the boat entirely. As the Sun’s luminosity gradually increases, the oceans will boil away, and the planet will no longer be in...

5 Sci-Fi Books Biotech Geeks Should Read Right Now

From space colonization to resurrection of dinosaurs to machine intelligence, the most awe-inspiring visions of humanity’s future are typically born from science fiction. But among an abundance of time travel, superheroes, space adventures, and so...

Microbes in Space: Bioengineered Bugs Could Help Colonize New Planets

As humans spread out into the cosmos in search of life, the most alien organisms we encounter may be those we bring with us. Researchers at NASA and elsewhere are engineering microbes so they...

Living Neanderthal ‘Mini-Brains’ May Reveal What Makes Our Brains Special

He isolated DNA from Egyptian mummies. He discovered the Denisovans, an extinct ancient human species, by sequencing DNA from a tiny bone fragment. He led a massive study that reconstructed the Neanderthal genome—and found...

CRISPR-on-a-Chip For Diagnosing Cancer May Soon Be a Thing

Oh CRISPR, how you’ve grown. From an obscure part of the bacterial immune defense system, you’re now on track to cure genetic diseases, thwart superbugs, boost global food production, and wipe out disease-carrying pests. And...

Mini-Brains Just Grew Their Own Blood Vessels—Here’s Why That’s Great News

If you ever put a brain through a Picasso filter, you’d probably get something close to a brain ball. When brain balls first hit the neuroscience scene in 2013, they were just a curious oddity....

This Memory Prosthesis Boosts Recall in Humans by Roughly 40 Percent

This one’s for the books: in a jaw-dropping study, a team just turned the human brain from a read-only memory device to a rewritable one. "What?" you might ask. Of course the brain is rewritable....

Artificial Photosynthesis Is Solar Energy’s Forgotten Cousin—and It’s Making a Comeback

In an article in Science published in 1912, Professor Giacomo Ciamician noted that “Coal… offers solar energy to humanity in its most concentrated form… but coal is not inexhaustible. Is fossil solar energy the...

The Biggest Tech Takeaways From the 2018 World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland wrapped up last week. The WEF exists to improve the state of the world by fostering cooperation between governments, NGOs, and the private sector. In...

Enzyme Designed Entirely From Scratch Opens a World of Biological Possibility

Ann Donnelly was utterly confused the first time she examined her protein. On all counts, it behaved like an enzyme—a protein catalyst that speeds up biological reactions in cells. One could argue that enzymes,...

Chinese Scientists Just Cloned a Monkey—Here Are the Details

In 1996, Dolly the sheep became the first mammal to be cloned from a somatic cell. Twenty years later, scientists have succeeded in using the same technique on primates—as detailed in a study published...

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