Scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli

Shrink to grow: on the road towards a 57-codon bacterium

“Shrink to grow” is a two-pronged business strategy where a company gets rid of unprofitable brands (“shrink”) to focus its resources on a few remaining or new brands (“grow”). Companies like P&G and Microsoft have used it, and a similar idea to “shrink to grow” is behind the George Church lab’s ongoing development of the synthetic bacteria rEcoli57. But while the executives at P&G were … Continue reading Shrink to grow: on the road towards a 57-codon bacterium

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Streamlined 473-Gene Bacteria May Lead to Discoveries, Biochemical Production

Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have created a fast-growing bacterial cell with a nearly-minimal number of genes necessary for survival – just 473 in total. These genes were entirely synthesized – not transplanted from a grown organism – and the creation of such a cell may allow big steps forward in gene function identification and efficient mass-production of biological molecules. Continue reading Streamlined 473-Gene Bacteria May Lead to Discoveries, Biochemical Production

DNA Profile

23andMe wins approval from FDA: What does your DNA say about you?

Spitting into a plastic tube normally doesn’t cost $199, but the personal genomics company 23andMe has recently won FDA approval to turn that saliva into a DNA fingerprint.  By identifying common variants in our genetic code, 23andMe’s DNA-testing service originally supplied personalized insights into disease predisposition, drug sensitivity, and other health-related traits.  In 2013, however, the FDA demanded that 23andMe shutter the health-related aspect of … Continue reading 23andMe wins approval from FDA: What does your DNA say about you?

Elendil

The Light of Elendil in Shelob’s Lair

By Andrew Wong, a second year graduate student in the Applied Physics program at Harvard University.       The increase in global energy demand and subsequent carbon dioxide emissions has driven advancements in renewable energy generation technologies such as wind turbines and solar cells. However, these technologies are inherently intermittent, and require robust energy storage devices. Inexpensive, large-scale energy storage systems such as aqueous … Continue reading The Light of Elendil in Shelob’s Lair

Cells in your blood, like those shown in this microscope image, are coated in membranes that the body recognizes as non-foreign, preventing the immune system from attacking them. Cloaking nanoparticles in such membranes allows them to slip past the defense system unnoticed, so they can deliver drugs to sites in the body without confrontation. (Hanna Sӧrensson, Flickr, Creative Commons)

Friend or Foe? Getting the body to make peace with bioengineered drug delivery systems

Recent drug discoveries promise new treatments and cures for many diseases. However, getting a drug to work, not only in experiments with cells in the lab, but also in the human body, is difficult. One challenge? Getting past the body’s line of defense, the immune system, which fights foreign invaders that make it into the body. In September, a news article reported that scientists have … Continue reading Friend or Foe? Getting the body to make peace with bioengineered drug delivery systems

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The Flavor Rundown: Natural vs. Artificial Flavors

by C. Rose Kennedy figures by Kaitlyn Choi What’s in a Flavor? The word “flavor” pervades our daily vocabulary, evoking associations of rich or vivid experiences beyond the experience of eating. Even in the literal context, the Flavor Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) describes flavor as “the entire range of sensations that we perceive when we eat a food or drink a beverage. Flavor encompasses a substance’s … Continue reading The Flavor Rundown: Natural vs. Artificial Flavors