Scientists Want to Make a Lysergic Acid Factory from Microbes

Lysergic acid

The headline for The Guardian article about this says the scientists want to make LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), but the article itself says they want to make lysergic acid (with no diethylamide), a precursor to LSD with other uses.

They said developing biofuels was a terrible business strategy, because fuel was so cheap. Why not make expensive compounds, like pharmaceuticals, instead?

The advice got Wintermute thinking. What was the most valuable compound they could make with the toolkit of synthetic biology? Some research came up with a few candidates including a few very sophisticated cancer drugs. But another compound was up there in monetary terms: LSD. The value by weight was astronomical.

Wintermute and his colleagues had a good laugh about that. But the more they looked into it, the more interesting – and viable – the drug looked. Around 20 tonnes of lysergic acid, a precursor of LSD, are made each year and turned into real medicines, such as nicergoline, a treatment for dementia. The drug is purified from big vats of fungus (which make the compound naturally) using technology developed decades ago.

The Guardian: Harvard scientists to make LSD factory from microbes

(via DrBenway23)

Bioart Project Seeks to Extract, Copy and Spread William S. Burroughs’s DNA – From a Preserved Turd

William S. Burroughs turd

Here’s a bizarre bioart project. It actually sounds like something out of one of his novels:

1: Take a glob of William S. Burroughs’ preserved shit
2: Isolate the DNA with a kit
3: Make, many, many copies of the DNA we extract
4: Soak the DNA in gold dust
5: Load the DNA dust into a genegun (a modified air pistol)
6: Fire the DNA dust into a mix of fresh sperm, blood and shit
7: Call the genetically modified mix of blood, shit, and sperm a living bioart, a new media paint, a living cut-up literary device and/or a mutant sculpture.

HP+: Mutate or Die: a W.S. Burroughs Biotechnological Bestiary

(via Boing Boing)

Can You Imagine a Future Where London Police Bees Conduct Genetic Surveillance?

genetic surveillance warning

Designer Thomas Thwaites (who built this DIY toaster with iron ore gathered by hand) has created a project called “Policing Genes,” envisioning a future in which bees are used for genetic surveillance:

Other than a few obvious illegal narcotic plants, it hadn’t occurred to me that the genetics of what is growing in a person’s garden could become a police matter. Even more intriguing/trippy was the possibility of the police using bees for surveillance and for forensically identifying the pollen that the bees came back with. If that pollen is genetically outside of the law, the police could use the bees to track a person right to the house he or she lives in. […]

Thomas Thwaites, however, has put a great deal of thought into genetic engineering and the policing of those genes. Thwaites pointed out that the ability to insert genes into plants is now DIY technology available to both the amateur and the criminal. “Policing Genes speculates that, like other technologies, genetic engineering will also find a use outside the law, with innocent-looking garden plants being modified to produce narcotics and unlicensed pharmaceuticals.”

Computerworld: Police bees for surveillance, tracking and buzzzsting biohackers?

Policing Genes

See also:

We Make Money Not Art’s interview with Thwaites

Biopunk: the biotechnology black market

Hong Kong Group Building Encrypted Bacterial Data Storage

Chinese University of Hong Kong iGem

Data encryption and storage has always been an important branch of research in computer engineering. In our project, we explored the possibility of harnessing a biological system as an alternative solution for data en/decryption and storage. Using bacteria as the information storage device is not new. However the practicability of previous research is being doubt due to the limited size of information available to be inserted into the bacteria.

We recognized the current barricades in developing a truly useful system and we forecasted the indispensable modules that one would be anticipating when putting fantasy into reality. This year, we have proposed a model that is a true, massively parallel bacterial data storage system.

In addition we have created an encryption module with the R64 Shufflon-Specific Recombinase to further secure the information. Together with the data proof-read/correction and random access modules developed, our expectation is high – we believe this could be an industrial standard in handling large scale data storage in living cells.

Team:Hong Kong-CUHK – 2010.igem.org

(via Wade)

Vat Grown Biker Jacket


Unlike the tiny, mouse-sized leather jacket vat grown from mouse and human cells I posted about a few years ago, this jacket is grown from bacteria and green tea and can apparently fit a human.

Ecouterre: U.K. Designer “Grows” an Entire Wardrobe From Bacteria


(via Boing Boing)

The Rise Of ‘Transplant Tourism’ – Should Organ Sales be Legalized?

polycystic kidney

How much is your kidney worth?

In Turkey the prized organ fetches around €2,300, an Indian or Iraqi kidney enriches its former owner by a mere €800, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the going price on the black market to be about €4,000.

But when you consider that wealthy clients will later pay well over €100,000 for the kidney, this massive profit margin would appear to guarantee a lucrative future for the international trade in human organs if it continues unchecked.

Irish Health: The Rise Of ‘Transplant Tourism’

Should organ sales be legalized and regulated instead of relying on voluntary donations?

Photo by euthman / CC

Ultra cheap nanochips could be built from DNA

DNA waffle

In his latest set of experiments, Chris Dwyer, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, demonstrated that by simply mixing customized snippets of DNA and other molecules, he could create literally billions of identical, tiny, waffle-looking structures.

Dwyer has shown that these nanostructures will efficiently self-assemble, and when different light-sensitive molecules are added to the mixture, the waffles exhibit unique and “programmable” properties that can be readily tapped. Using light to excite these molecules, known as chromophores, he can create simple logic gates, or switches.

PhysOrg: DNA could be backbone of next generation logic chips

(via Theoretick)

R.U. Sirius: The Best-Case Scenario For Posthumanity, And Who Is Making It Happen

R.U. fuckin' Sirius

Annalee has asked me to comment on what is the best-case scenario for posthumanity and what groups are working on putting that scenario in motion. This is the sort of question that invites utopian musings. I’ve become somewhat shy of utopian projections, which is maybe why I tend to interview other people and let them take the fall… but what the hell, I’ll give it a shot.

The fun, of course, would be in visions of tall, thin, beautiful blue skinned beings that are superbright rather than corny (maybe winged, too. Winged would be nice), a third arm for carrying groceries, skinny little fingers for ever-tinier portable devices, and everybody engineered at the germ line to be crazy sex freaks.

But being of nobler stuff, I’ll give you what I think is the best down to earth scenario for near-term enhanced humanity, and then I’ll also mention a few further out vision – some of which I’m fond of.

io9: The Best-Case Scenario For Posthumanity, And Who Is Making It Happen

Want to get involved in building the future, but lack a background in engineering science and hard science? Get started learning get started studying engineering online for free.

(Thanks Cole Tucker)

More information on human tissue 3D printers

3d bioprinter

Previously mentioned here:

The new machine, which costs around $200,000, has been developed by Organovo, a company in San Diego that specialises in regenerative medicine, and Invetech, an engineering and automation firm in Melbourne, Australia. One of Organovo’s founders, Gabor Forgacs of the University of Missouri, developed the prototype on which the new 3D bio-printer is based. The first production models will soon be delivered to research groups which, like Dr Forgacs’s, are studying ways to produce tissue and organs for repair and replacement. At present much of this work is done by hand or by adapting existing instruments and devices.

To start with, only simple tissues, such as skin, muscle and short stretches of blood vessels, will be made, says Keith Murphy, Organovo’s chief executive, and these will be for research purposes. Mr Murphy says, however, that the company expects that within five years, once clinical trials are complete, the printers will produce blood vessels for use as grafts in bypass surgery. With more research it should be possible to produce bigger, more complex body parts. Because the machines have the ability to make branched tubes, the technology could, for example, be used to create the networks of blood vessels needed to sustain larger printed organs, like kidneys, livers and hearts. […]

Though printing organs is new, growing them from scratch on scaffolds has already been done successfully. In 2006 Anthony Atala and his colleagues at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina made new bladders for seven patients. These are still working.

Read More – Economist: A machine that prints organs is coming to market

(via Edge of Tomorrow and G.V.)

Outlaw Biology

outlaw biology

Outlaw Biology was a DIY biology symposium held January 29-30 at UCLA. Here’s a list of workshops that may or may not have occurred:

1. Bioweathermap, Jason Bobe. With field-trips to the UCLA Arboretum and Hammer Museum (in cooperation with Machine Project

2. Learn to Design a DNA-based nanostructure using cadnano software, Philip Lukeman

3. Paint colorful microbes – luminescent, fluorescent, and pigmented – on do-it-yourself solid media. With a little time and luck, we’ll preserve the painted results in epoxy, like microbiological paintings in amber, Mackenzie Cowell

4. SKDB: Learn to use software tools for open source manufacturing and bioengineering, Bryan Bishop and Ben Lipkowitz

5. Use of Acinetobacter calcoaceticus strain ADP1 as a DIY bioengineering platform, David Metzgar

6. Ars Synthetica: Have an informed, ethical, and open dialogue on the emerging field of synthetic biology, Gaymon Bennett

7. Extract DNA from Strawberries, CSG Staff

8. Lactobacillus Plasmid Recovery and Visualization for fun and profit, Meredith L. Patterson

9. DIY Webcam Microscopy. Join us for a worldwide webcam hacking event and make your own 100x USB microscope for less than $10. We’ll provide the webcams and a live internet feed from other workshop locations across the world, from Bangalore to Australia. Find out more at diybio.org/ucam

10. Velolab, See the first Bicyclized Mobile Biology lab, Sam Starr

11. Learn about FBI Outreach: Promoting Responsible Research & Career Opportunities, Special Agent Edward You

12. Learn about LavaAmp: The Personal Thermal Cycler, Guido Núñez-Mujica and Joseph P. Jackson III

13. The HOX Gene Zodiac project. Learn about homeobox genes, body plans and the Chinese Zodiac, Victoria Vesna

Learn more at their web site.

(via Grinding)

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