Making Movies that Zoom into Foreign Worlds — The stars of these films usually have only one cell.
Researchers are using cellular machinery to turn E. coli bacteria into little computers. By creating on/off switches that are similar to electronic transistors, scientists can control each microbe’s behavior.
“Everything in our cells is either made by the ribosome, or made by another molecule that itself was made by the ribosome” says Professor Venki Ramakrishnan, one of the handful of experts to unpick the secrets of this powerhouse of life.
And as well as being a universal fabricator – shared in essence by every living thing – the ribosome could be the most direct connection within us to the very origins of life, that warm pond of chemicals 4 billion years ago, where self-replicating molecules, perhaps made of RNA like the heart of the ribosome, started the long ascent to complexity.
Synthetic biology can sound kind of bland. Like polyester pants. Nylon stockings. Synthetic – no big deal.
But think about it. Synthetic biology. Biology fully, deeply, maybe radically remade by man. It’s well underway.
Re-engineering biology to make food, fuel, medicine. Seeds that grow into houses. Stronger, smarter humans. Maybe even bring back the dead. The extinct
My guest today has written about finding an “extremely adventurous” woman to give birth to a Neanderthal. And he’s not kidding.
This hour, On Point: synthetic biology creating new and very old life.