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Why neuroscience is ending the Prozac era. The big money has moved from developing psychiatric drugs to manipulating our brain networks. Has the psychiatric drug age reached its peak? Mind-altering drugs have are being prescribed in record numbers but there are signs of a radically new approach to understanding and treating mental illnesses. A huge research effort is now devoted to altering the function of specific neural circuits by physical intervention in the brain and the focus is no longer on developing drugs.

The starkest indication that drugs are increasingly being thought of as yesterday’s cutting-edge comes from the little mentioned fact that almost all the major drug companies have closed or curtailed their drug discovery programs for mental and neurological disorders. The realization that there has been little in the way of genuine innovation since the major classes of psychiatric drugs were discovered in the 1950s has made future sales look bleak. Big money has already been committed. Let’s make this clear. Quality control opens path to synthetic biology's Ikea - life - 27 March 2013. THE next industrial revolution could be biological.

Think living machines that produce energy from landfill waste, biological sensors that detect dirty water or bacterial production lines that churn out drugs. These are just some of the applications that synthetic biology – applying engineering principles to biological parts – could make possible. That goal is looking more likely now that, for the first time, researchers have established a set of rules that could allow parts to be assembled with industrial rigour.

Libraries of these standardised high-quality parts will let engineers pick components knowing how they will behave. The behaviour of all living matter is governed by gene expression, the process by which biological materials such as proteins are made. So synthetic biology's "parts" are the DNA sequences that contain certain manufacturing instructions. Researchers have been building one-off biological machines by combining several of these parts for years. More from the web. Synthetic Biology Comes Down to Earth - The Chronicle Review. By Paul Voosen Robert E. Klein Jim Collins is a professor of biomedical engineering at Boston U. Let's make one thing clear: Jim Collins won't grow you a house any time soon. More than a decade ago, Collins, a decorated scientist at Boston University, helped give birth to synthetic biology, which soon grew into arguably the world's hottest and most poorly defined scientific discipline.

Its practitioners made big promises: that by harnessing the ideas of engineering and applying them to genetics, they would create cheap, abundant biofuels, customized medicine, even self-growing houses, as one scientist predicted. The potential for mastering life was so exciting that scientists ­talked about applications decades away as if they were around the bend. Since 2004 investors have poured at least $1.84-billion into synthetic-biology start-ups; the government has added many more millions in research dollars. There's a simple reason for this problem: The tools have outpaced the knowledge.

Synthetic Biology and Conservation of Nature: Wicked Problems and Wicked Solutions. Citation: Redford KH, Adams W, Mace GM (2013) Synthetic Biology and Conservation of Nature: Wicked Problems and Wicked Solutions. PLoS Biol 11(4): e1001530. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001530 Published: April 2, 2013 Copyright: © 2013 Redford et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work. Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Abbreviations: CBD, Convention on Biodiversity; COP, Conference of the Parties; IPBES, Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Extinction might not be forever if synthetic biologists and others pursue their proposals to use advanced genetic engineering techniques to save endangered species and return extinct ones [1].

Table 1. Supreme Court Decision Opens the Doors to A Boom in Synthetic Biology. Today’s Supreme Court ruling on the patenting of human genes was a boost to the field of synthetic biology. While human genes cannot be directly patented, the Court found, so-called complementary DNA can. This is DNA that is synthesized from the rNA in a genetic template and then cloned. The Court found that while naturally occurring DNA is not a human creation, "the lab technician unquestionably creates something new when cDNA is made. " Synthetic biology relies on this synthesized cDNA.

Synthetic biology has been in the news lately for many reasons. Last Friday a unique Kickstarter campaign closed with almost $500,000 in donations (well over a $65,000 goal). As a result, three young DIY bio enthusiasts will distribute to almost 6,000 backers, who kicked in at least $40 each, packages of synthetically genetically engineered seeds that supposedly will allow each of them to grow bioluminescent house plants--Arabidopsis and eventually roses--at home. Trends in synthetic biology 2011.

Synthetic Biology: Mapping the Scientific Landscape. Results The Rise of Synthetic Biology As of January 2012 a total of 1,255 publications were listed in Web of Science for synthetic biology and synthetic genomics in the period to the end of December 2011 (Figure 1). These results include publications and conference proceedings produced by researchers active in the development of synthetic biology and work by social scientists and others concerned with understanding the implications of synthetic biology. This data can be explored in Workbook S1 and online through the Synthetic Biology Scientific Landscape.

Figure 1. Data from Web of Science topic search for synthetic biology or synthetic genomics or synthetic genome or synthetic genomes in January 2012. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034368.g001 Viewed historically, references to synthetic biology appeared sporadically in the literature in the early 1980s and 1990s [14]–[18]. Defining or characterising synthetic biology has become a significant focus of discussion among researchers [24]–[30]. New high-tech laser method allows DNA to be inserted 'gently' into living cells. ( —The applications of gene therapy and genetic engineering are broad: everything from pet fish that glow red to increased crop yields worldwide to cures for many of the diseases that plague humankind.

But realizing them always starts with solving the same basic scientific question—how to "transfect" a cell by inserting foreign DNA into it. Many methods already exist for doing this, but they tend to be clumsy and destructive, not allowing researchers to precisely control how and when they insert the DNA or requiring them to burn through large numbers of cells before they can get it into one.

A team of scientists in South Korea have now developed the most precise method ever used to insert DNA into cells. "What is magical is that all this happens for one cell," said Yong-Gu Lee, an associate professor in the School of Mechatronics at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea and one of the researchers who carried out the study. Scientists 'print' 3D bionic ear. The Growing Global Challenge to Monsanto's Monopolistic Greed.

(Photo: Monsanto via The New York Times) The common problem we face is the power of concentrated wealth and monopolistic corporate interests. This has created a crony capitalist economy that uses government to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the people, often threatening our basic necessities for life.A clear example of this is found in the behavior of the chemical and seed corporation, Monsanto.Monsanto threatens the world's food supply; this is a major challenge of our era.

This struggle is central to the global ecosystem, economy and energy crises. Monsanto also pushes poisonous chemicals into the environment and promotes agricultural practices that exacerbate climate change. Monsanto's actions truly affect each of us. They put their profits over the need for healthy foods, diverse seed supplies and the stability of the agricultural economy. A global grassroots movement is building to challenge Monsanto as more people realize that we are in a struggle for our survival.

Challenges of Synthetic Biology and Metabolic Engineering in New Biofuel Production Technologies - Crop Biotech Update (3/11/2011. (open access journal article during time of access) The role of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology as enabling technologies for the production of alcohol biofuels (i.e. ethanol and butanol) was reviewed by Ramon Gonzalez of Rice University (United States) and colleagues. Advances in synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, and systems biology have resulted in the harnessing of biofuel-producing microorganisms for new pathways of redirecting carbon metabolism into desired products.

In the review, the authors found "recurring themes" related to (1) strategies for heterologous gene expression, (2) evolutionary selection, and (3) "reverse" metabolic engineering. Advances in the "-omics" sciences have also increased new knowledge "by probing cellular changes associated with new phenotypes and driving the construction of efficient microorganisms for biofuels production. " New synthetic biology circuits that combine memory and logic. MIT engineers have created genetic circuits in bacterial cells that not only perform logic functions, but also remember the results, which are encoded in the cell’s DNA and passed on for dozens of generations. The circuits could be used as long-term environmental sensors, efficient controls for biomanufacturing, or to program stem cells to differentiate into other cell types.

Integrated logic and memory devices. Nature Biotechnology - Synthetic circuits integrating logic and memory in living cells ABSTRACT - Logic and memory are essential functions of circuits that generate complex, state-dependent responses. More than logic Synthetic biologists use interchangeable genetic parts to design circuits that perform a specific function, such as detecting a chemical in the environment. Circuits can also be designed for any type of Boolean logic function, such as AND gates and OR gates. Lu designed the new circuits so that the memory function is built into the logic gate itself. Long-term memory. Metamaterials breakthrough could lead to the first wide-spectrum optical invisibility cloak.

To make a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak requires the use of materials that have what's known as a negative refractive index over all optical wavelengths, from red to violet. However, the artificially-structured optical materials from which cloaks are made thus far have been restricted to a very narrow range of optical wavelengths, limiting their ability to cloak over a range of colors. That obstacle to progress looks to be at an end, as a group of optical engineers at Stanford has succeeded in designing a broadband metamaterial that exhibits a negative refractive index over nearly the entire rainbow. View all The first invisibility cloaks, made at Duke University, worked by bending light around an object to be cloaked, as illustrated below. However, it is not quite this simple. The light exiting the cloak must also match the polarization and the phase of the light that travels past the cloak, or it will show a visible presence.

Source: Stanford University.