This Week in Science - August 12 - 18, 2013:

[Better late than never!]

  • Converted stem cells here.
  • Glow in the dark rabbits here.
  • Bacteria lightbulb here.
  • Neanderthals first European tools here.
  • Fur predates mammals here.
  • Cups & straws alert to date-rape drugs here.
  • Watermelon juice remedy here.
  • Mouse heart cells replaced here.
  • Carbyne stronger than graphene & diamond here.
  • Humans in China 1.7 mill. years ago here.
  • Olinguito discovered here.
  • Sea snail hatched in boys’ knee here.
A Light Bulb Powered By Bacteria

We’ve all basked in the glow of different light bulbs: incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, neon, LED, and more. But a lamp that harbors living, light-emitting bacteria — a biological bulb, if you will — is something radically different from what’s available on the market today.

Three undergraduate students from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, hope to change that with the help of crowdfunding.

The young scientists, who are finalists in the Popular Science #CrowdGrant Challenge, recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for a kit that anyone can use to make a Biobulb.

"The Biobulb is essentially a closed ecosystem in a jar," says biochemistry major Michael Zaiken in the team’s video pitch. “It’s going to contain several different species of microorganisms, and each organism plays a role in the recycling of vital nutrients that each of the other microbes need to survive.”

The kit’s key ingredient will be a genetically engineered species of Escherichia coli bacteria. These microbes live inside the intestines of humans and other animals, and they don’t normally glow in the dark. But Zaiken and his two teammates, Alexandra Cohn (a genetics and philosophy double-major) and AnaElise Beckman (a neurobiology and anthropology double-major), plan to insert a loop of DNA into E. coli that will allow the bacteria to bioluminesce like jellyfish, fireflies, squid, or some other light-producing lifeform.

Electricity won’t power the bulb. The genetically modified E. coli plus a growth media, microbes that use ambient light to create food and recycle waste, and a bulb should be able to glow and recharge repeatedly, perhaps for days or months. (Sort of like a glowing version of those aquatic ecosystems sealed into glass spheres that you see in airline catalogs.)

Biobulb isn’t available yet; the team still needs to study the best genes, kit ingredients, and caretaking methods. One of the current challenges is finding a way to keep the DNA that codes for bioluminescence inside the E. coli as the cells replicate. “Right now we are looking at a couple of strategies to keep the [bioluminescence] genes stable over long periods of time,” Zaiken says on the Biobulb project’s RocketHub page.

More than delivering a cool product, Cohn hopes the crowdfunding project will cast a positive light on the field of synthetic biology. “Many people don’t understand what exactly synthetic biology is,” she says.

watch the video :) 

Watch on

In short, three young scientists at the University of Wisconsin—Madison started a crowdfunding project to create a bioluminescent lightbulb. 

Awesome. Fund it here.

In their own words: 

The goal of the Biobulb is to create an ecosystem in a jar. The ecosystem will consist of several different microbes, each of which plays a role in nutrient recycling and population control. The result is a closed ecosystem that will sustain itself with the addition of just light. The system will support a population of genetically engineered E. Coli. These bacteria will be transformed with a plasmid which contains the genes for bioluminescence. The result will be a stable, closed, microbial ecosystem that glows in the dark. We plan on experimenting with different bioluminescence proteins to determine which species’ native genes produce the best glow in the E. Coli. We also plan to experiment with techniques to combat mutation in the plasmid, different colored light emission, and different triggers for the activation of the glowing bacteria. 

Bio bulb glowing plant light

BIOBULB™ is a second-generation Bioglow glowing plant product based on Starlight Avatar™ (for additional information please visit Although Biobulb™ will not light up the room and it may take a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark before the glow is noticed, it is the first symbolic step to the future of plant-based sustainable light sources.
The GLOW of Starlight Avatar™ within Biobulb™ is best described as comparable in strength to starlight. The plant’s dim, ambient glow can best be appreciated in a darkened room and typically requires a few minutes for one’s eyes to adapt to the darkness before the plant’s glow is fully pronounced. To enjoy viewing the glow of Starlight Avatar™, it is important to keep in mind that the ability of the human eyes to see dim lights is influenced by the amount of light they were exposed to immediately before viewing and the age of the observer. For example, walking into a dark room from a sunny afternoon outdoors will require a longer acclimation period for one’s eyes to adapt than during the evening hours. Younger people typically notice the glow faster than do older individuals. Cataracts and other adverse eye conditions may affect one’s ability to see the glow. Depending on age and prior light exposure, certain individuals may be able to see the plant’s glow right away, whereas others will require a few minutes. When glow becomes visible, the plant’s features and glowing parts become increasingly more prominent as the eyes continue to adjust.
The LIFE SPAN of Starlight Avatar™ within Biobulb™ is 2 to 3 months, which is comparable to the natural life span of N. alata, an annual plant from which Starlight Avatar™ is derived. Many other annual plants have a similar life expectancy, typically germinating early in the summer and wilting in the fall.
CONTAINER: Starlight Avatar™ is propagated on a standard plant culture medium, which is susceptible to contamination. Opening Biobulb™ will introduce contamination and result in irreparable damage to the plant. Please refrain from unsealing Biobulb™. Opening or unsealing Biobulb™ will void the warranty.
AVAILABILITY: Biobulb™ will ship within 3 to 6 weeks from purchase date, as we custom propagate each plant per order. We will do our best to ship earlier when there are sufficient plants in stock . An e-mail notification will be sent when the product ships. Due to export/import regulations at this time, Biobulb™ is available only within the United States.
WARRANTY: There is a 14-day warranty for the product.

LIGHT: As with any other plant, Starlight Avatar™ requires light to grow and thrive. However, please avoid prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, as it may damage the plant.
TEMPERATURE: The optimal temperature for Starlight Avatar™ growth is around 75°F (25°C). When the plant is subjected to suboptimal temperatures (below 60°F [15°C] or higher than 85°F [30°C]), the plant may become stressed, and the glow may decrease or cease. However, the glow is typically restored within one to two days upon return to normal conditions. Prolonged exposure to suboptimal temperatures is not recommended, as it may damage the plant.
HUMIDITY: Starlight Avatar™ is highly susceptible to low humidity and water shock. The airtight Biobulb™ container maintains 100% humidity. Unsealing the container, in addition to introducing contamination, may cause the plant to dry and wilt.
INDOOR USE: Starlight Avatar™ is highly unlikely to survive in an open garden due to strong susceptibility to a variety of abiotic conditions, particularly strong light and water shock. Biobulb™ is recommended as an indoor product only.

Following are the terms of the “Limited Use License” for Starlight Avatar™, Biobulb™, and all other Bioglow glowing plant products. By purchasing any of glowing plant products, you agree to the following terms:
Bioglow grants the buyer a limited license to use purchased plant(s) for personal, ornamental, nonresearch, and noncommercial use only.
Buyer is not to use the plant, seeds, flowers, germplasm, plant tissue, transplants, genetic material, or any part of the plant for any breeding, tissue culture, sexual or asexual propagation, seed production, reverse engineering, genetic fingerprinting, molecular or genetic analysis or engineering, or research.
No plant or any part of the plant may be preserved or used in any way for self- or cross-pollination reproduction, cloning, or any other germplasm extraction, multiplying, or manipulation.
Buyer is not to copy, extract, reproduce, modify, or translate any part of the genetic material contained in the plant, seed, or any part of the plant.
Buyer is not to sell, offer to sell, transfer, export, sublicense, give, or supply the plant, seeds, or any part of the plant to any other person or entity.
The plant is not for human or animal consumption.
All rights not specifically granted are reserved by Bioglow.