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Biotechnology


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

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...

Hacking Plant Life: Artificial Photosynthesis Takes a Leap Forward

All life on earth ultimately gets its energy from the sun through the amazing ability of plants to sustain themselves on nothing more than water, air, and sunlight. Now researchers have taken a major...

This New Smartphone-Based DNA Test Could Help Track Disease in Real Time

On-the-spot DNA tests could prove invaluable to doctors, farmers, and officials responsible for food safety or environmental monitoring. Now Chinese researchers have created an ultra-portable, smartphone-based DNA testing platform that costs less than $10. Whether...

Coronavirus Drug Development in 5 (Turbo-Charged) Steps

One of the scariest things about the new coronavirus is that there aren’t any validated treatments. Plenty of ideas are in the works: a decades-long anti-malaria pill, blood components from people who’ve recovered, broad...

This Group of Scientists Is Making Sure We’re Ready for the Next Pandemic

Ask just about anyone how the US is doing on its response to the coronavirus pandemic and you’ll get some variation of the same answer: poorly. From a shortage of tests and medical supplies...

Blood Is the Next Critical Tool In the Coronavirus Fight. Here’s Why

I’ve been sick for the past week. The symptoms match up with coronavirus infection. But like many people in the US, because they’re relatively mild I’m unable to get a test. Testing rates have finally...

Pop-Up Coronavirus Labs and a 5-Minute Test Take Aim at the Testing Void

Two and a half months after the first confirmed novel coronavirus case in the US, the virus has invaded the country’s east and west coasts and is quickly making its way into the center...

Existing Drugs May Work Against Covid-19. AI Is Screening Thousands to Find Out

You’ve heard of chloroquine by now. Originally developed by German scientists in the 1930s, the anti-malaria drug is based on a natural compound present in the bark of certain South African trees. For nearly...

A Coronavirus Vaccine Could Be the First That Outwits Nature

It’s been grim news all around for COVID-19. Italy’s skyrocketing death toll has now risen above China’s. Countries are shutting borders. Massive cities in the US have ordered “shelter-in-place” to reduce viral transmission, severely...

Scientists Engineered Neurons to Make Electrically Conductive Materials

Electricity plays a surprisingly powerful role in our bodies. While most people are aware that it plays a crucial role in carrying signals to and from our nerves, our bodies produce electric fields that...

On the Front Lines of Developing a Test For the Coronavirus

“That escalated quickly!” is a common trope used in popular culture to describe when a situation gets out of hand before you’ve even had a chance to think about it. We don’t often use...

DeepMind’s Protein Folding AI Is Going After Coronavirus

In late December last year, Dr. Li Wenliang began warning officials about a novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, but was silenced by the police before tragically succumbing to the disease two months later. Meanwhile,...

To Turbocharge Anti-Aging Treatment, Just Add… a Protein Found in Fruit Flies?

The hunt for the elixir of life is such a universal mythological trope that to talk about it in the context of science seems almost ridiculous. But breakthroughs in the last decade have made...

Huge $161 Million Investment Means Meat Without the Animal Is Here

In 1931, Winston Churchill made a bold prediction: “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable...

$100 Genome Sequencing Will Yield a Treasure Trove of Genetic Data

What would the implications be if decoding your genes cost less than a pair of designer jeans? We might soon find out after a Chinese company claimed it can sequence the human genome for...

Gene Therapy Is Successfully Treating a Common Form of Inherited Blindness

K.L. always knew he might be completely blind before reaching adulthood. Even as a child he realized something was wrong with his eyes. Although he could see enough to navigate the world in daytime, as...

How to Battle an Epidemic? Digitize Its DNA and Share It With the World

A nightmarish scene was burnt into my memory nearly two decades ago: Changainjie, Beijing’s normally chaotic “fifth avenue,” desolate without a sign of life. Schools shut, subways empty, people terrified to leave their homes....

Have Humans Evolved Beyond Nature—and Do We Even Need It?

Such is the extent of our dominion on Earth, that the answer to questions around whether we are still part of nature, and whether we even need some of it, rely on an understanding...

Engineering Bugs, Resurrecting Species: The Wild World of Synthetic Biology for Conservation

Imagine a world where a mosquito bite is just an itchy annoyance. No malaria. No dengue fever. Last month, scientists announced they had taken one more step toward that vision. A paper in the journal...

The Top Biotech Trends We’ll Be Watching in 2020

Last year left us with this piece of bombshell news: He Jiankui, the mastermind behind the CRISPR babies scandal, has been sentenced to three years in prison for violating Chinese laws on “scientific research...

A New Anti-Aging Therapy Is Starting Its First Human Trial—and It Costs $1 Million

Recent research on longevity is making the idea of an elixir of life sound increasingly plausible. But a startup that's started selling a $1 million anti-aging treatment is most likely jumping the gun. Libella Gene...

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...

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