Hacking Human Cells to Use Solar Power

“Our cells are not that different from a car engine: they depend on carbon-based fuels for energy. But using carbon for energy is an inefficient process. This is what the biotech startup BiPlastiq seeks to resolve, using solar energy instead of carbon and oxygen, by hacking our cells. The founder of BiPlastiq, Christopher Powell believes that by hacking our mitochondrial structures to use solar energy, the power output of our bodies might increase dramatically. This upgrade could arguably transform human bodies into regenerative machines and extend human lives by decades.

Each of our cells are equipped with a mitochondrion that converts chemical properties of food into an energy molecule called ATP. ATP is used for everything, from moving a single muscle to repairing broken parts of the body. However, the employment of ATP as the energy currency of our bodies makes us dependent on the limited resources of oxygen and food. According to Powell, installing the ability to use solar power into our mitochondria might allow our cells to produce ATP with light only.

The idea is nothing new to science. Researches done in the 1960s illustrated that by applying a near-infrared laser light, we can improve wound healing and reduce pain. Although the role of cell structures enabling this technology is not fully laid out, it’s believed that infrared light energizes our mitochondria and makes ATP production faster. If Powell’s vision will ever succeed, these engineered cells with upgraded mitochondria may produce the newest form of reproductive technology. Cells that use solar power could be injected, and when combined with a light therapy, the technology might transform several medical fields, ranging from organ regeneration to anti-aging.”





Alexandra Ossola

Our eyes are such elegant, complex, specialized organs that their existence seems almost hard to believe–Darwin himself called their evolution “absurd.” But that doesn’t mean they’re perfect; eyes sometimes don’t focus correctly, they break down over time, and they can be extremely painful if infected, irritated, or exposed to light that’s too bright. Italian biotech startup MHOX is embarking on an ambitious project: to improve human eyes by making synthetic replacements.

“Latest developments in bioprinting and biohacking let us imagine that in the near future it would be possible to easily print organic, functional body parts, allowing the human to replace defected districts or enhance standard performance,” lead designer Filippo Nassetti told Dezeen.

The concept is called Enhance Your Eye (EYE, of course) and are made from a 3D bioprinter, which uses a special needle to drop different types of cells into the appropriate alignment and structure. Bioprinters can already makeorgans such as ears, blood vessels, and kidneys, but eyes remain elusive because of their complexity.

The way Nassetti envisions it, users could choose between three different types of synthetic EYEs: Heal, Enhance, and Advance. The first is a synthetic eye that basically works just like a natural one and could serve as a replacement for people with diseases or traumas that would otherwise be blind. EYE Enhance seeks to improve the eye’s natural functions by improving vision to 15/20 and enabling filters on vision like those on photo apps (such as vintage, black and white). To turn on or change the filter, a user can take a pill. The third type, Advance, has additional glands to capture or record what a person is seeing, as well as a Wi-Fi connection to share those images.

In order to use an EYE system, people would need to get their natural eyes surgically removed and replaced with the Deck, a sort of artificial retina that connects to the brain and would allow users to plug in different eyeballs at will.

The designers behind EYE predict that the product will be on the market in early 2027, but they haven’t released any information about what the Deck looks like or how the system actually looks in a person. (It’s one thing if it looks natural, it’s quite another if the Deck sticks out and makes people look like mutant cyborgs.) And though 3D bioprinting is advancing quickly, making an eye might prove more challenging than anticipated. As exciting as EYE seems to be, it’s important to note that there may be a number of hurdles that come up in the interim years that make the system less desirable–or even impossible–to use.

from PopSci

Science for the Masses, a group of biohackers based a couple hours north of Los Angeles in Tehachapi, California, theorized they could enhance healthy eyesight enough that it would induce night vision. To do this, the group used a kind of chlorophyll analog called Chlorin e6 (or Ce6), which is found in some deep-sea fish and is used as an occasional method to treat night blindness.

Did it work? Yes. It started with shapes, hung about 10 meters away. “I’m talking like the size of my hand,” Licina says. Before long, they were able to do longer distances, recognizing symbols and identifying moving subjects against different backgrounds. “The other test, we had people go stand in the woods,” he says. “At 50 meters, we could figure out where they were, even if they were standing up against a tree.” Each time, Licina had a 100% success rate. The control group, without being dosed with Ce6, only got them right a third of the time.

WTF did I read?

[science for the masses] [paper]

Cow Milk Without the Cow Is Coming to Change Food Forever

“They’re trying to make cow’s milk cheese without the cow. Using mail-order DNA, they’re tricking yeast cells into producing a substance that’s molecularly identical to milk. And if successful, they’ll turn this milk into cheese. Real cheese. But vegan cheese. Real vegan cheese.

That’s the name of the project: Real Vegan Cheese. These hackers want cheese that tastes like the real thing, but they don’t want it coming from an animal.” 

Read more from wired.


Scientists have created a see-through eggshell to watch embryo development

In an effort to make scientific research cheaper and easier, an array of ‘on-a-chip’ technologies have been developed over the past few years. The idea is to use stem cells to build a miniature replica of a real-life human organ so you can observe its reactions to as many new drugs and treatments as you like. The benefit is these little organs-on-a-chip offer a much more accurate view of how real human organs might respond to these treatments than testing them on lab animals would - and they do it much more cheaply, and humanely.

Read more: http://www.sciencealert.com/watch-scientists-have-created-a-see-through-eggshell-to-watch-embryo-development

By: Science Alert.


Dawn of the Cyborg Bacteria

“In a basement laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, two roboticists have harnessed the sensing, swimming, and swarming abilities of bacteria to power microscopic robots. Even though their work sounds like the premise of a dark science fiction film, Ph.D. students Elizabeth Beattie and Denise Wong hope these initial experiments with nano bio-robots will provide a platform for future medical and micro-engineering endeavors.”

Regarding bionic limbs

I’ve been thinking about something recently - I think there’s an unsolved problem in bionics. Prosthetics are heavy, and people are going to want to lift superhuman loads with them. Anything heavy, when attached to the body will eventually wear the torso down unevenly, putting stress on muscles and bones that wouldn’t be there normally.

A potential solution is reinforcing the torso, starting with the skeleton. My first thought was to infuse titanium with bone, since it osseointegrates so well. 

It would also be necessary to look into alloys to increase the flexibility of the bionic bone, since complete rigidity is incompatible with the biomechanics of the body.

The idea is to take 3d scans of the subject’s axial skeleton, then run an algorithm on the output to generate replacement bones from this alloy that have channels in which to grow natural osseous tissue. This would ensure that the subject still generates blood through hematopoesis. The titanium alloy would basically act as a replacement for compact bone, but allowing the cancellous tissue to remain as it was.

Once the properties of the new biomaterial are known, several simulations would need to be run to test the new load-bearing capacity, adding supportive struts as needed. You could even fill in the voids between ribs with interlocking, reptile-scale like plates to make the torso resistant to stabbing or gunshot wounds. This would be a useful time to write a program that can take a single ‘part’ design and generate child designs that fit different skeletal physiques.

There are unresolved issues here, however. The musculature will need to be able to attach to this new bone, the tendons and the muscles themselves need to be strong enough to handle the increased loads as well. Interface points between bones will need to be handled. The natural body uses cartilage to do this, and if natural cartilage cannot bind to the augmented bone then a replacement would have to be made. Similarly, ligaments must be either made compatible or substituted.

There are many hurdles to be cleared, but I believe that this problem will need to be solved before the full potential of bionics can truly be realized. I’m sure there are hundreds of little problems I haven’t been made aware of. Can you think of any immediate pitfalls?

How would you go about augmenting the torso to support heavier loads?

CRISPR could protect genetic intellectual property by self-destructing synthetic sequences:

“A lot of efforts have been made around creating [biological] kill switches. We’re building on that, so that [a bacterium] wouldn’t just kill itself, but delete its synthetic DNA before doing that.” It’s like the biological version of hitting CTRL-Z.”

Wondering if it’s working with DNA Storage.

3 Medical Conditions UC San Diego Engineers Are Helping to Treat

The potential for engineering to advance human medicine is truly amazing: 3D printing of organs, injectable gels that replace worn out heart tissue, tattoos that monitor blood glucose levels - the astoundingly high-tech but real list goes on.

Here are three diseases or conditions that are being studied through an engineer’s eye to innovate new approaches and treatments. All of the projects are collaborations between UC San Diego School of Medicine and Jacobs School of Engineering researchers.

Heart Disease
The principles of fluid dynamics are best known for explaining lift around an airfoil or wave propagation across the ocean’s surface, but a tweaked version of the equations of motion can also be used to describe blood flow through a patient’s coronary arteries. The simulations, when constructed from a CT scan of a patient’s heart, can identify places in the arteries where flows may stagnate, offering a new metric for evaluating a patient’s risk of blood clot formation.

The simulations are currently being used to improve clinical treatment strategies for patients with aneurysms caused by Kawasaki disease.

Other applications include patient specific modeling of coronary bypass graft surgery and the design and optimization of new techniques for pediatric heart surgery. Some have called the simulations “virtual surgery” for the No. 1 killer in America.

Type 1 Diabetes
Much of the research on diabetes has been conducted on non-human subjects. For a new human-relevant view of the disease, researchers are bioengineering the key working parts of the human pancreas, complete with the cells that produce insulin and other hormones that regulate blood sugar, as well as blood vessels that supply cells with nutrients and oxygen.

The cells, derived from induced human stem cells, will be placed in a collagen matrix designed to mimic some of the pancreas’ structural properties, all in miniature. Years or decades from now, it may be possible to protect or replace a person’s insulin-producing cells with stem cell-derived therapies.

Premature Birth/Neonatal Intensive Care
The smallest and most fragile patients at UC San Diego Health System – neonates in intensive care who often weigh less than three pounds at birth – are benefiting from second skin electronic devices that can continuously monitor heart rate, body temperature, skin perfusion and other vital signs that have previously been tracked with electrodes and wires.

These “epidermal electronics” are less bothersome to sensitive skin than a small strip of Scotch tape. In fact, the devices are not coated with an adhesive but instead rely on inter-molecular van der Waals forces to stay put.

In planned research, neonatal heart rate data will be processed through a novel analytic system to investigate whether slight variations in heart rate may be an early sign of infection, eye disease, lung or cardiovascular problems.

Algae Asphalt & Fungus Fuel: Progress in Search for Petroleum Replacements

by Michael Keller

Our world is run on the backs of ancient dead things. Like it or not, petroleum is ever present in our lives, and projections show that will continue to be the case until at least 2040. 

Around 36 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. in 2013 came from burning petroleum, which is the naturally occurring flammable liquid found deep underground that is used to make a range of fuels. The country’s reliance on crude is expected to diminish only slightly to 33 percent by 2040, according to the Energy Information Administration’s 2015 forecast

It’s not just fuel for planes, trains and automobiles that drives our demand for the stuff–it is also the source of chemicals used to make plastics, lubricants and even the binder in asphalt. But getting crude out of the ground can be a messy business that always carries a risk for the environment and human health. And burning it releases long-stored repositories of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur into the atmosphere to wreak havoc on health and climate.

A number of efforts are reporting success at finding sci-fi ways to fuel the future. Learn more about two new projects and see a video and pictures below.

Keep reading


Crazy Science: Would You Biohack Your Eyes?

Two men forming “citizen science” group Science for the Masses created an eyedrop made primarily of Chlorin e6, derived from a deep-sea bioluminescent fish. They claim the drops can help them clearly make out people over 160 feet away in pitch blackness standing in the woods. Would you try the drops?

Kim Horcher discusses with special guests Malik Forte (Gaming Editor, Nerdist.com) and Carl White (Pro-gaming world champion “Perfect Legend” )

Read more: http://www.geek.com/science/california-biohackers-create-night-vision-eye-drops-1619078/

By: Nerd Alert.


BioBots Is A 3D Printer For Living Cells

“Biofabrication, the process of artificially building living tissue structures, is not a new field — there is more than a decade of research in this area already. But Cabrera and his co-founders believe they have spotted an opportunity to overhaul expensive (circa $100,000+), large, complex legacy devices — taking inspiration from the small, low-cost desktop 3D printers being used by the maker movement to extrude plastic. Instead of plastic, BioBots’ 3D printer uses a special ink that can be combined with biomaterials and living cells to build 3D living tissue and miniature human organs. The use-case at this point is for research and pre-clinical screening, such as drug testing (as a replacement for animal testing). It’s not about 3D printing replacement organs from a person’s own cells — albeit developments in this area are heading (incrementally) in that direction. More near term future potential for the tech is to help foster bespoke disease therapies, according to Cabrera.”

Microsoft Study: Human Attention Spans Shrinking, Less Than Goldfish

A Microsoft study of 2,000 participants revealed that pocket-sized devices and digital content omnipresence has compromised people’s attention span, which is now estimated to be less than nine seconds – that is, shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.

Fifteen years earlier, people’s attention span was estimated at twelve seconds, but today’s digitally driven lifestyles have triggered an attention span shrinkage. As a result individuals are having a hard time focusing on a single task. The report showed that “[Surveyed participants] with more digital lifestyles struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed.”


MHOX EYE - 3D bioprinted sight augmentation

Beautifully illustrated bioneurotech longterm vision from italian generative design studio MHOX. It’s a bold statement about the futures of wetware, bioprinting and the possible cyborgization of mankind. IMHO a bit too scifi-esque and far fetched for a Design Fiction, but nonetheless a great project to spark a debate about the endless possibilites and risks of emerging technologies.

Latest developments in bioprinting and biohacking let us imagine that in the near future it would be possible to easily print organic, functional body parts, allowing the human to replace defected districts or enhance standard performance. This project is based on the idea of augmenting the sight sense, increasing the functionalities of the eye with ones currently handled by other body segments or external devices.

EYE (Enhance Your Eye) is a personalized 3d bioprinted sight augmentation, that will be delivered in three models:

  • EYE HEAL replaces standard eye functionality, providing a cure to sight deseases and traumas.
  • EYE ENHANCE sharpens sight up to 15/10, thanks to its hyper-retina. Moreover, it allows the opportunity to aesthetically filter the visual signal. Filters (vintage, black and white, …) can be activated or changed swallowing EYE pills.
  • EYE ADVANCE provides connectivity with Wi-Fi enabled devices and the ability to record and share the visual experience

Only Drawback: Your eyes must be removed and replaced with the Deck, a HMI artificial retina that connects your brain to the EYE replacements. According to MHOX the bioprinted wetware products are expected to be available on the market by January 2027. Save your money.

Side note: Not sure why, but Popular Science calls them a biotech startup. The author is generally pretty confident that we will see bioprinted eyes in 2027. Blurred present or simulacrum. But tbh, it wouldn’t surprise me if they get a 50 million € VC funding from the Valley. It’s bold enough to blow money.

[MHOX Design] [more at Dezeen] [all pictures by MHOX]

Stranger Visions is a series of 3D printed portraits based on genetic material taken from public places. Heather Dewey-Hagborg analyses DNA from found cigarette butts, chewed gum and stray hairs to generate portraits of each subject based on their genetic data. Stranger Visions reveals the disconcerting possibilities for surveillance in the intimate and immensely detailed traces we leave as we move through the world.

» deweyhagborg.com/strangervisions/about.html

via greatfridays.com/blog/everything-you-ever-need-to-know-about-how-terrified-people-are-about-the-future-of-design/


Scientists Make Sperm Out Of Two Women’s Skin!

Need a little extra sperm? Scientists are finding a way to make both sperm cells and egg cells out of human skin.

By: Think Tank.


One reason to like biting ants: they can heal your wounds. Really.

“As technology and science have advanced, so too have the sophistication of such biomaterials and the ways that they are used. As you’ll hear in the TED Talk, “A new way to grow bone,” scientists can use saline to create a small pocket in a person’s leg so that stem cells there grow into new bone to heal an injurt. Another recent biomaterial advance: a lab-grown miniature brain. The field of biomaterials didn’t get its name until the 1960s, but the concept of using materials strategically in the body has been around for a long time. We spoke to Buddy Ratner, who directs the Research Center for Biomaterials at the University of Washington and who co-edited the textbook, Biomaterials Science, to get a (non-exhaustive) tour of extraordinary material advances of the past millennia.”

Scientists Create Giant E-Coli Bacteria, 750x Longer Than Normal!

[Edit: Link to Article]

While the idea of giant bacteria is a bit frightening, curious, and hilarious, the truth is that this could teach us a lot about cell division and open up some interesting possibilities for bio-tech, as the article explains.


The typical Escherichia coli, the laboratory rat of microbiology, is a tiny 1-2 thousandths of a millimeter long. Now, by blocking cell division, two researchers at Concordia University in Montreal have grown E. coli that stretch three quarters of a millimeter. That’s up to 750 times their normal length….

New industrial tubes, that straddle the interface of biology, materials science, and nanotechnology could be made from the cell walls of the hyper-elongated E. coli… such tubes might [also] be used as gene therapy delivery devices. Additionally, he speculates that creating such lengthy bacteria might be useful for achieving a greater understanding of pathogenic species…

Visit RealCleverScience.tumblr for more awe-inspiring science stories, news, and musings.