Tag: DNA

DNA brings materials to life

Mark Hoffman   DNA-coated colloids have been used to create novel self-assembling materials in a breakthrough experiment by EPFL and University of Cambridge scientists. A colloid is a substance spread out evenly inside another substance. Everyday examples include milk, styrofoam,…

Supreme Court weighs DNA ‘fingerprinting’

By Robert Barnes,

The Supreme Court debated Tuesday whether Maryland’s decision to collect DNA samples from people arrested for serious crimes represents an unconstitutional invasion of privacy or a crime-solving breakthrough with the potential to be the “fingerprinting of the 21st century.”

Either way, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said, the case is “perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades.”

At issue are laws in 29 states and on the federal level that allow some version of DNA collections. And the oral argument highlighted the difficulty the court sometimes has in squaring emerging or potential technological advances with centuries-old constitutional protections.

“How can I base a decision today on what you tell me is going to happen in two years?” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked Maryland Chief Deputy Attorney General Katherine Winfree. “Don’t I have to base a decision on what we have today?”

Future of data: Encoded in DNA

Photo credit: Kelvin Ma for the Wall Street Journal
In the latest effort to contend with exploding quantities of digital data, researchers encoded an entire book into the genetic molecules of DNA, the basic building block of life, and then accurately read back the text.

The experiment, reported Thursday in the journal Science, may point a way toward eventual data-storage devices with vastly more capacity for their size than today’s computer chips and drives.

“A device the size of your thumb could store as much information as the whole Internet,” said Harvard University molecular geneticist George Church, the project’s senior researcher.

In their work, the group translated the English text of a coming book on genomic engineering into actual DNA.

Read Entire Story in Wallstreet Journal

National DNA database needed for personalized medicine drive

A national DNA database is needed if the NHS is to capitalise on advances in technology and offer personalised medicine to all in the future, advisors have told the Government.

At the moment the health service is just starting to offer patients genetic testing, for example to tell if they will respond to certain cancer fighting drugs.

But in the future the technology is likely to be central to many areas of healthcare – from testing pregnant women’s blood to check the foetus’s risk of Down’s syndrome, to tracking disease outbreaks.

Sir John Bell, chair of the Human Genomics Strategy Group, said to deliver ‘genomic’ based medicine in the future, a national database was necessary.

Speaking yesterday (Wednesday) to launch a report by the group to make this happen, he said: “It’s almost impossible to go forward with the whole personalised medicine agenda, unless you have this database.”

Could hackers develop a ‘computer virus’ to infect the human mind?

Viruses could be used to influence behaviour – and we may have to ‘learn how to counterattack’

‘One of the most powerful technologies in the world’ By Rob Waugh

Californian biologist Andrew Hessel says, ‘Cells are living computers and DNA is a programming language,’ but warns that this could lead to viruses and bacteria used to ‘hack’ human minds The field of ‘synthetic biology’ is in its infancy. We can ‘tweak’ the genetics of life forms – but billionaire entrepreneur Craig Venter only created ‘artificial life’ for the first time last year, christening his life form ‘Synthia’. But experts working within the field believe that our expertise is out-accelerating natural evolution by a factor of millions of years – and some warn that synthetic biology could spin out of control. It could lead, says Andrew Hessel of Singularity University, on Nasa’s research campus, to a world where hackers could engineer viruses or bacteria to control human minds. Hessel believes that genetic engineering is the next frontier of computing.

‘This is one of the most powerful technologies in the world,’ says Hessel ‘Synthetic biology – the writing of life.’ ‘I advocate that cells are living computers and DNA is a programming language.’

‘I want to see life programmed and used to solve global challenges so that humanity can achieve a sustainable relationship within the biosphere,’ he says.It’s growing fast. It will grow faster than computer technologies.’