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. Harvard scientists to make LSD factory from microbes
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. Can Hobbyists and Hackers Transform Biotechnology?
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: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life
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
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. This is the world of "ant guards". The acacias might appear overrun by them, but the plants have the ants wrapped around their little stems.
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.