Harvard scientists to make LSD factory from microbes. Students on a bread making course.
But did the tutor remember to warn them about the other things that yeast turn into? Photograph: Fabio De Paola Jake Wintermute wanted to save the world rather than make a pile of money. A PhD student in Pam Silver's synthetic biology lab at Harvard Medical School he worked on biofuels in the hope of one day making them commercial alternatives to fossil fuels. From time to time, venture capitalists would come by for a chat. The advice got Wintermute thinking. Wintermute and his colleagues had a good laugh about that. With the tools of synthetic biology, Wintermute thought they might do better. Wintermute gave an update on the project last week at the Synthetic Biology 5 conference at Stanford University. Hong Kong researchers store data in bacteria. Can Hobbyists and Hackers Transform Biotechnology?
For most of us, managing our health means visiting a doctor.
The more serious our concerns, the more specialized a medical expert we seek. Our bodies often feel like foreign and frightening lands, and we are happy to let someone with an MD serve as our tour guide. For most of us, our own DNA never makes it onto our personal reading list. Biohackers are on a mission to change all that. These do-it-yourself biology hobbyists want to bring biotechnology out of institutional labs and into our homes. In Biopunk, journalist Marcus Wohlsen surveys the rising tide of the biohacker movement, which has been made possible by a convergence of better and cheaper technologies. Wohlson discovers that biohackers, like the open-source programmers and software hackers who came before, are united by a profound idealism.
Things ReviewedBiopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of LifeBy Marcus Wohlsen Current, $25.95. Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life. Has covered startup culture, the maker scene, and the marijuana industry as a reporter in the San Francisco bureau of The Associated Press.
His first book, , was published this week by Current. I asked him to contribute a few pieces about the biotech underground to run on Boing Boing. Here's the first one. Biopunk. Biohacking is the practice of engaging biology with the hacker ethic. Biohacking encompasses a wide spectrum of practices and movements ranging from Grinders who design and install DIY body-enhancements such as magnetic implants to DIY biologists who conduct at-home gene sequencing. Biohacking emerged in a growing trend of non-institutional science and technology development. Many biohacking activists, or biohackers, identify with the biopunk movement as well as transhumanism and techno-progressivism. "Biohacking" can also refer to managing one's own biology using a combination of medical, nutritional and electronic techniques.
This may include the use of nootropics and/or cybernetic devices for recording biometric data. Ideology Contemporary biohacking movements One of the larger biohacking movements is the DIY biology movement. Disinfectants 'train' superbugs to resist antibiotics. Disinfectants could effectively train bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics, research suggests.
Scientists know bacteria can become inured to disinfectant, but research increasingly shows the same process may make them resistant to certain drugs. This can occur even with an antibiotic the bacteria have not been exposed to. Writing in Microbiology, the National University of Ireland team, who focused on a common hospital bacterium, urges a rethink of how infections are managed. Scientists in Galway found that by adding increasing amounts of disinfectant to cultures of pseudomonas aeruginosa in the lab, the bacteria learnt to resist not only the disinfectant but also ciprofloxacin - a commonly-prescribed antibiotic - even without being exposed to it.
The researchers report the bacteria had adapted to pump out anti-microbial agents - be they a disinfectant or an antibiotic - from their cells. Acacia plant controls ants with chemical. Plants have systems for keeping their six-legged inhabitants in check In Africa and in the tropics, armies of tiny creatures make the twisting stems of acacia plants their homes.
Aggressive, stinging ants feed on the sugary nectar the plant provides and live in nests protected by its thick bark. Close encounters with Japan's 'living fossil' Dr Takeyoshi Tochimoto gives a guided tour of the world's biggest amphibian It soon becomes clear that the giant salamander has hit Claude Gascon's enthusiasm button smack on the nose.
"This is a dinosaur, this is amazing," he enthuses. "We're talking about salamanders that usually fit in the palm of your hand. This one will chop your hand off. " As a leader of Conservation International's (CI) scientific programmes, and co-chair of the Amphibian Specialist Group with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Dr Gascon has seen a fair few frogs and salamanders in his life; but little, he says, to compare with this. Fortunately for all of our digits, this particular giant salamander is in no position to chop off anything, trapped in a tank in the visitors' centre in Maniwa City, about 800km west of Tokyo. If local legend is to be believed, though, this specimen is a mere tadpole compared with the biggest ever seen around Maniwa.
Close family Richard.Black-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk.