When asked to name an endangered species, rhinos are probably one of the
first animals to come to most peoples' minds. In both Africa and Asia,
poaching is causing populations to plummet, due mainly to demand for
rhino horn as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine – whether or
not it actually has any medicinal value is another question
altogether. In any case, San Francisco-based biotech startup Pembient is
developing what it hopes could be a solution: inexpensive bioengineered
rhino horn, which could out-compete the genuine item.
The secret to pulling off long-term manned space missions is biomanufacturing – at least, that's the argument presented by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) who have used synthetic biology to produce sustainable alternatives to fuel
and anti-malaria drugs. Their theory rests on the idea that biological production processes and harnessing of materials at the mission destination could dramatically reduce mass (and hence cost) requirements.
Ah, the ant farm. It's somehow nice to know that in the age of apps and iPods, kids still like to watch colonies of ants fastidiously going about their daily business. The humble ant farm hasn't remained unchanged by technology, however. For some time now, instead of dirt or sand, commercially-available kits have instead come with a clear green gel. The ants are not only able to tunnel through this goop, but it also serves as their source of food and water. Educational toy company Uncle Milton is now taking the concept a step farther, with its Ant Farm Revolution. It's a cylindrical gel ant farm, with a built-in LED lamp that casts giant silhouettes of its ants on the user's ceiling ... or presumably onto the outside wall of a neighbor's house.
Should you find yourself in Dublin, pondering the social and ethical ramifications of advances in bioscience, you really ought to check out VISCERAL: THE LIVING ART EXPERIMENT at Trinity College’s Science Gallery. The show was put together by the University of Western Australia’s SymboticA art-science residency program, and features 15 works of art (or are they works of science?) that incorporate living tissue, created by SymboticA researchers from several countries. It’s intended to be an exploration of the boundaries between art and science, and of “our changing understandings and perceptions of life in the light of rapid developments in the life sciences and their applied technologies.” It’s also a chance to see books grown out of human skin cells.
Earlier this year we looked at a technique to grow 3D cell cultures
using magnetic forces to levitate cells while they divided and grew, forming tissues that more closely resemble those inside the human body. Now researchers at the MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) have devised a new way to achieve the same goal by using "biological Legos".
3D is the big news in the world of TV
this year and now even cell cultures are getting in on the act. A team of scientists has taken aim at a biological icon - the two-dimensional petri dish – and unveiled a new technique for growing 3D cell cultures. The new process uses magnetic forces to levitate cells while they divide and grow to form tissues that more closely resemble those inside the human body. This represents a technological leap from the flat petri dish and could save millions of dollars in drug-testing costs.
Scientists have successfully wired a state-of-the-art artificial hand to existing nerve endings in the stump of a severed arm. Its creators say the device, called “SmartHand,” resembles a real hand in function, sensitivity and appearance. In order to develop such an intelligent artificial prosthetic hand
with all the basic features displayed by a real one, the SmartHand team integrated recent advances in nanobioscience, cognitive neuroscience and information technologies.
Now here's a frightening thought! Brain chemicals such as endorphins, and drugs, such as marijuana and heroin are known to have significant effects on sperm and eggs, altering the patterns of genes that are active in them. In an article published in the latest issue of the journal Bioscience Hypotheses, Dr Alberto Halabe Bucay of Research Center Halabe and Darwich, Mexico, suggested that the hormones and chemicals resulting from happiness, depression and other mental states can affect our eggs and sperm, resulting in lasting changes in our children at the time of their conception. Bucay suggests that a wide range of chemicals that our brain generates when we are in different moods could affect ‘germ cells’ (eggs and sperm), the cells that ultimately produce the next generation. Such natural chemicals could affect the way that specific genes are expressed in the germ cells, and hence how a child develops.