Designer babies, the end of diseases, genetically modified humans that never age. Outrageous things that used to be science fiction are suddenly becoming reality. The only thing we know for sure is that things will change irreversibly. [more inside]
This robot stingray is powered by genetically engineered rat heart cells. It has an elastomer body and a stiff gold skeleton. Rat heart cells are grown in a specific pattern on the underside, and are activated by pulses of light -- allowing the robot to be remote controlled as it navigates through a liquid with suspended nutrients that keep the cells alive. More details from Science. Even Popular Mechanics doesn't need to do much sensationalizing to this story.
"In the winter of 2014, students at Iowa State University received emails asking them to volunteer for an experiment. Researchers were looking for women who would eat bananas that had been genetically engineered to produce extra carotenes, the yellow-orange nutrients that take their name from carrots. Our bodies use alpha and beta carotenes to make retinol, better known as vitamin A, and the experiment was testing how much of the carotenes in the bananas would transform to vitamin A. The researchers were part of an international team trying to end vitamin A deficiency. The emails reached the volunteers they needed to begin the experiment, but they also reached protesters. “As a student in the sustainability program, I immediately started asking questions,” said Iowa State postdoc Rivka Fidel. “Is this proven safe? Have they considered the broader cultural and economic issues?” ... Fidel told me she and her friends had found it nearly impossible to extract information from researchers, or from the Gates Foundation, which is providing funding for this project. Too often conversations about these kinds of issues simply reverberate within their respective echo chambers. So to bridge the gap I took the gist of the students’ questions to people at the Gates Foundation, scientists working on the banana, and the one person who may have done the most to fight vitamin A deficiency — an ophthalmologist who has no interest in either promoting or bashing GMOs." [more inside]
The disease that sours oranges and leaves them half green, already ravaging citrus crops across the world, had reached the state’s storied groves. To slow the spread of the bacterium that causes the scourge, they chopped down hundreds of thousands of infected trees and sprayed an expanding array of pesticides on the winged insect that carries it. But the contagion could not be contained.They would have to alter the orange’s DNA — with a gene from a different species. (SLNYT)
With a precipitous decline in Florida’s harvest predicted within the decade, the only chance left to save it, Mr. Kress believed, was one that his industry and others had long avoided for fear of consumer rejection.
20,000 genes and splices: the Colonel's Secret Recipe revealed! Even the fanciest chickens won't be able to ignore their genetic cousins now.
First Birds with teeth in 70 million years. Vicious toothed, flying microraptors once darkened the Jurassic skies. Now, scientists have learned to activate the dormant, vestigal avian "tooth gene" and so coaxed chicken embryos into growing teeth. From the grave, Alfred Hitchcock enviously quips - "a messy thing indeed when toothed birds kill a man". Meanwhile the French are appalled: “quand les poules auront des dents”, which translates to “when hens have teeth”, is analogous to the English “pigs might fly”. Coming soon: flying pigs. But there might be a baldness cure in this new research. I'll remember that as the flocks of mutant raptor-fowl move in for the kill.
Stupidity should be cured, says DNA discoverer. "People say it would be terrible if we made all girls pretty. I think it would be great."
Scientists infuse endurance genes into mice. Researchers say they have created a transgenic mouse with muscles like a marathoner, capable of enduring rigorous exercise for extended periods of time. Is cloning and genetic engineering gaining a little more acceptance? I for one would like to welcome our...ah, to hell with it...
They're farther along than I thought... You may have heard about Nexia Biotechnology, who have put spider genes into goats to get milk with spider silk protein in it. I thought it was still in the research phase, but Nexia have apparently gone to market with the stuff. They've signed agreements with several manufacturers to produce spider silk protein-based products such as lightweight ballistic armor (like Kevlar, only lighter and non-toxic to produce) for the armed forces and super-strong sutures and prosthetic ligaments for medical supply companies.
What the law show say about cloning. Francis Fukuyama and Robert Wright, who have written about technology and "societal evolution", discuss the pros and cons of genetic engineering. This is not a discussion about the finer points of technology, but rather the philosophical implications of moving forward.
Surely Pork and Apple? The leader of a maverick team of biotechnicians has created Pigs with an implant of spinach genes. Lambs are to have mint sauce implant in the near future?
Ebola is for wimps! Some Australian scientists were trying to come up with a mouse contraceptive vaccine, for use in pest control. And they succeeded. Unfortunately, the virus they created works by killing mice before they can breed, and killing them very very well. Oh, and it's extremely vaccine-resistant: 100% death without vaccine, 50% with. And any kid with a Li'l Johnny Gene Engineering Kit could conceivably make a human version. Anyone got some smallpox virus laying around?