Hearing loss restored through gene therapy, app-controlled hearing aids, and synthetic biology takes off.

Once upon a time, prosthetic augmentation of a failing sense of hearing took the form of devices the size of a paperback book hung around one's neck and smallish headphones pumping amplified sound into the wearer's ears. As technology progressed and the sizes of components shrank to sub-surface mount form factors (for illustration please note the sizes of the 603 and 402 components) hearing aids shrank in size until they could be custom molded to fit snugly into one's ear canal. All of the benefit with very little of the mass or weight. Hand in hand with the miniaturization …

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Biobatteries and bioengineered petroleum manufacturing.

In the twenty-first century you'd be hard pressed to find a piece of every day kit that doesn't have a power cell of some kind running it. Cellphones, tablets, laptops, MP3 players... they all need to be plugged in periodically to recharge. Under optimal conditions they can go two or three days in between top-offs but sometimes that isn't practical. Additionally, rechargable power cells have a finite lifetime and start to run dry faster and faster after two or three hundred recharges. This next bit of tech makes me wonder... a research team at Virginia Tech has figured out how …

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Conan the Bacterium!

Inspired by the prose of Dr. Peter Watts, I bring you Conan the Bacterium (otherwise known as deinococcus radiodurans, "..the toughest microbial motherfucker on the planet, a microbe who laughs at hard vacuum and radiation hot enough to cook you to a cinder.")

Picture from the Wikipedia article on deinococcus radiodurans. Quote from Conan the Barbarian. Picture of Peter Watts from here, originally taken by Allan Weiss. Macro engineered with the GIMP and cheezburger.com.

I'm on crack.

Bacteria created with first wholly synthetic genome.

Late last week it was announced by the J. Craig Venter Institute that they had created the first synthetic cell, a variant of the bacterium mycoplasma mycoides, which is the micro-organism that causes bovine contagious pleuropneumonia. The project cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40mus, and involved a team of geneticists sitting down and writing an entire genome of 1.1 million base pairs, using the much smaller genome of related species m.genitalium as a template. Once the smaller genome was understood it then became possible to develop a brand-new one from scratch. The research team then figured out …

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I have no desire at all to find out how these fountains were contaminated.

There's really no way to start off an article about this other than to lay it out up front: Soda fountains in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia were found to be contaminated with the same bacteria you find in human feces. Thirty soda machines in the area had samples taken from them for analysis and the soda from them was found to be contaminated with a few strains of e. coli, stenotrophomonas maltophilia, klebsiella pneumoniae, and other coliform microorginisms. Oh, and as if that wasn't enough to make you reconsider getting a drink the next time you go to a …

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Another step closer to artificial life - an artificial chromosome.

Geneticist Craig Venter of San Diego, California has made a significant breakthrough in genetics and bioengineering after it's been verified by the scientific community (I have to throw that disclaimer for reasons that'll be made clear in a moment)... he's built a chromosome out of raw materials in vitro.

Yeah. Not only did Venter's team, lead by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Hamilton O. Smith hooked synthetic nucleotides together one by one into a strand of DNA 580,000 base pairs in length, coding for 381 distinct genes, and then got the DNA to coil up into a chromosome. The synthetic …

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Bioengineered strain of e.coli produces fuel-worthy hydrocarbons

A bioengineering firm called LS9 has done something remarkable with the bacteria e.coli (the Swiss Army Knife of gengineering) - they successfully engineered a strain to produce arbitrary hydrocarbon compounds in addition to the usual fatty acids that life on this planet uses to store energy. Specifically, the bacterial strains almost produce the hydrocarbons that are normally pumped out of the ground in the form of crude oil and then fractionated ("cracked") into different substances. Mix the right hydrocarbons together and you get gasoline. Or diesel fuel. Or the raw materials needed to make plastics.

I say 'almost' because the …

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