Synthetic biology holds a lot of promise for developing organisms that perform functions that would otherwise require delicate and expensive devices. Imagine a bacteria designed to eat oil. Put some on an oil spill and they will clean up the area with minimal human intervention. They could even be dropped in from the air. National Public Radio's Science Friday had a segment on iGem, International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. This year's winner was a group of undergraduates from Cambridge who designed a set of bacteria which turn colors in response to stimulus, literally (see image below). Imagine a developing country with possible arsenic in the water. Put some of the questionable water on a petri dish with these bacteria. If they turn green, the water is good and if they turn red you should try another well. This is a great advancement since no specialized equipment, e.g. flow cytometer, is necessary. Hopefully this machine will get incorporated into the BioBrick registry which maintains a list of building blocks for creation of genetically engineered machines.

blog comments powered by Disqus


12 November 2009