Video of the Week #2: Creating Synthetic Life

“Creating Synthetic Life” is a documentary which premiered on the Science Channel in 2010. It follows the story of Craig Venter and his team in creating Synthia (or Mycoplasma laboratorium), an organism which has been declared by some to be “the first synthetic organism”. The documentary has a few flaws, something not unexpected given its very general target audience. Nonetheless it has a very high production quality and is definitely worth watching. You can purchase the DVD of the program here, or you can watch a version which has been uploaded to youtube below.

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Posted on in Biotechnology Leave a comment

Italian GM Research Under Threat

While anti-GM crop destruction may have been stopped at Rothamsted only a week ago, yet another project has come under threat. Dr. Eddo Rugini has spent the last 30 years working on woody plant propagation in Italy, specifically looking at transgenic olive trees, cherry trees, and kiwifruit vines. He gained permission to grow the plants in 1998 with strict protocols to prevent gene flow from the plants. However in 2002 Italy passed a law banning field research on genetically engineered plants. Dr. Rugini was granted an extension until 2008, but no longer and has now been called to destroy the plants himself. You can find out more information on this issue in a well written article by Anastasia Bodnar of Biofortified.

Thirty years of work will be destroyed tomorrow, by Dr. Rugini himself (under court order), a true tragedy for science. While it may be too late to effectively stop this, a petition has nonetheless been formed to protest the destruction. You can sign the petition here, or see the signatures of others here. I have included some of the moving words of those who have signed the petition after the break.

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Posted on in Politics & Ethics 2 Comments

Datoos: DNA Tatoos

Datoos, or DNA tattoos are an idea conceived by Frog Design. The idea is simple, a temporary printable tattoo which has an interactive display which can also monitor your health through various input. Essentially they are an idea for a more artistic way to replace and improve on current smartphones. Sadly frog design hasn’t moved forward with the idea, but there are still a number of articles on the design which are worth a read (Gizmag, bit rebels, technovelgy). The concept however is still a very good one and one which I think will definitely be pushed forward, in one way or another in the future.

The key idea I think behind this technology is the idea of internal health monitoring through devices. With more sophisticated nano-technology/synthetic biology we will be able to create more machines which can exist within the body and interact/control them externally. There is also a lot of potential for interfaces which can draw power from the body itself – saving on costly and bulky batteries.

Posted on in Art & Design 1 Comment

Animation: ‘MURDER’

‘Murder’ is a short animation about a scientist’s pursuit of cloning. It touches upon some of the potential philosophical and ethical problems with such a technology. Although we shouldn’t confuse it with modern cloning which works in quite a different fashion. Nonetheless, an interesting piece to watch! Watch the film after the break.

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Posted on in Science Fiction Leave a comment

Bioinformatics as a Hobby

Bioinformatics is the study of data generated from biological experiments. With the advent of high-throughput sequencing and many other rapidly improving technologies Biologists are often producing far more data than they can properly analyze. With data being so easy to produce we have massive amounts of data, much of it publicly available – which could hold the keys to new medicines, cures, of breakthroughs. This data just needs someone to look through it. Using data mining software bioinformaticians look though data to find interesting patterns or to find answers to questions. But just like DIY Biology, bioinformatics isn’t restricted to professionals. Given that all you need to do bioinformatics is a computer and some spare time, anyone can do it.

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Posted on in Biology 3 Comments