(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘biotechnology

“The rewards for biotechnology are tremendous – to solve disease, eliminate poverty, age gracefully. It sounds so much cooler than Facebook.”*…


It’s hard to tell precisely how big a role biotechnology plays in our economy, because it infiltrates so many parts of it. Genetically modified organisms such as microbes and plants now create medicine, food, fuel, and even fabrics. Recently, Robert Carlson, of the biotech firm Biodesic and the investment firm Bioeconomy Capital, decided to run the numbers and ended up with an eye-popping estimate. He concluded that in 2012, the last year for which good data are available, revenues from biotechnology in the United States alone were over $324 billion.

“If we talk about mining or several manufacturing sectors, biotech is bigger than those,” said Carlson. “I don’t think people appreciate that.”…

What makes the scope of biotech so staggering is not just its size, but its youth. Manufacturing first exploded in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. But biotech is only about 40 years old. It burst into existence thanks largely to a discovery made in the late 1960s by Hamilton Smith, a microbiologist then at Johns Hopkins University, and his colleagues, that a protein called a restriction enzyme can slice DNA. Once Smith showed the world how restriction enzymes work, other scientists began using them as tools to alter genes…

The whole story at “The Man Who Kicked Off the Biotech Revolution.”

* George M. Church


As we clean our petri dishes, we might recall that it was on this date in 182 that Charles M. Graham was issued the first U.S. patent for artificial teeth. The record, and its details, were lost in the Patent Office fire of December, 1836.  Dentures or false teeth had been around for eons. There is evidence Etruscans in what is today northern Italy made dentures out of human or animal teeth as early as 7000 BC; George Washington owned four separate sets of dentures (though none were wooden, despite a myth to that effect).  But Graham was the first to patent his approach.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

We are collaborators in creation*…

 full image here

Scientists have developed a way to carve shapes from DNA canvases, including all the letters of the Roman alphabet, emoticons and an eagle’s head.

Bryan Wei, a postdoctoral scholar at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and his colleagues make these shapes out of single strands of DNA just 42 letters long. Each strand is unique, and folds to form a rectangular tile. When mixed, neighbouring tiles stick to each other in a brick-wall pattern, and shorter boundary tiles lock the edges in place…

Read the story on Nature‘s blog (or the full paper in Nature).

As CoDesign observes,

Creating a DNA alphabet was simply a vivid way for the scientists to demonstrate the flexibility and atomic-level accuracy of their system. But you don’t even need a PhD in order to use it, because they also created a graphical user interface that lets anyone with a mouse (and access to an atomic force microscope, the device that “draws” the DNA) sketch out the shape they want without mucking around with code or technical specs.

Still, the DNAlphabet could actually have intriguing applications of its own. Security-minded (or just plain egomaniacal) researchers could use these microscopic structures to watermark their synthetic-biological products, just like that scene in Blade Runner. Even cooler: “One can imagine we can use the shapes as invisible ink in a secret-agent way,” says Wei. “High density information can be delivered in a test tube or simply as powder.”

* “Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”  – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


As we reach for the tweezers, we might recall that it was on this date that Marie Skłodowska-Curie (AKA Madame Curie) went before the examination committee at the University of Paris for her PhD. She was awarded the degree… and later that year, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for her work on “radioactivity” (a term she coined).  She became the first female professor at the University, and went on to win another Nobel (the second, in Chemistry)– the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to date to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences… on the basis of which, in 1995, she became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon.

Her work was central to a wave of research that enabled the development of x-ray crystallography, the tool used by Rosalind Franklin in making critical contributions to the project that unravelled the fine molecular structures of DNA (for which Crick, Watson, and Wilkins won the Nobel Prize).

Marie Curie


Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 25, 2012 at 1:01 am

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