Expanding the genetic alphabet

Since the beginning of time, the genetic alphabet in all living things has consisted of 4 letters. Now, scientists have discovered a way to expand the genetic code to store and use orders of magnitude more information than ever before. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the cellular instructions for proteins: little machines in your cells that perform important functions. DNA normally contains 4 nucleotides (A, T, … Continue reading Expanding the genetic alphabet

Human blood cells

Scientists Learn to 3D Print Cells One Drop at A Time

3D printing is poised to become a major technological advancement in treating injuries and illnesses that cause tissue damage. For scientists, creating artificial tissue with 3D printing has been a challenge. As the 3D printed structure grows in size, cells often move and compromise the tissue’s structural integrity. New work from Oxford University addresses this problem. By encasing cells in nanoliter sized droplets of fat molecules, researchers are able … Continue reading Scientists Learn to 3D Print Cells One Drop at A Time

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

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

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

Not Your Grandfather’s GMOs: An Interview with Dr. Dan Voytas

by James Angstman images courtesy of Calyxt Dr. Dan Voytas, PhD. Courtesy of Calyxt. “I just got a text from my 14-year-old niece the other day, and she said, ‘Thought of a good idea for your next genetically modified treat,’” he told me. “So, you see, there’s a difference in the language, right? It’s a GMT. ‘Broccoli and asparagus in one vegetable. It should look … Continue reading Not Your Grandfather’s GMOs: An Interview with Dr. Dan Voytas

How to Make a GMO

by Chelsea Powell figures by Anna Maurer Summary: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms that have been altered using genetic engineering methods. Although genetic engineering is a common and essential practice in biotechnology, its specific use in crops is controversial. The key steps involved in genetic engineering are identifying a trait of interest, isolating that trait, inserting that trait into a desired organism, and then … Continue reading How to Make a GMO