Synthetic Biology’s Hunt for the Genetic Transistor

How genetic circuits will unlock the true potential of bioengineering

10 min read
Synthetic Biology’s Hunt for the Genetic Transistor
Photo: Dan Saelinger; Stylist: Laurie Raab/Halley Resources; Makeup and Hair: Greg Clark/Halley Resources

In 1977, a small group of researchers in California changed the world when they wrangled a common gut bacterium into producing a human protein. Using every technique in the book—and inventing some of their own—they scavenged, snipped, and glued together genetic components to synthesize a tiny filament of DNA. They then inserted the new segment into some Escherichia coli cells, tricking them into making the human hormone somatostatin.

A year later, these scientists had an E. coli strain that produced insulin, an invaluable drug in the treatment of diabetes. With that, the era of biotechnology was born. A plethora of novel—or at least cheaper—drugs seemed to loom on the horizon.

Keep reading... Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Acer Goes Big on Glasses-Free, 3D Monitors—Look Out, VR

Is this what’s needed to bring augmented reality to the home office?

4 min read
A standing tablet computer shows a blow out of a car that appears to be coming out of the display.

Content creators are a key target for Acer's glasses-free 3D.

Acer

Acer, the world’s fifth largest PC brand, wants to take the growing AR/VR market by the horns with its SpatialLabs glasses-free stereoscopic 3D displays.

First teased in 2021 in a variant of Acer’s ConceptD 7 laptop, the technology expands this summer in a pair of portable monitors, the SpatialLabs View and View Pro, and select Acer Predator gaming laptops. The launch is paired with AI-powered software for converting existing 2D content into stereoscopic 3D.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

DARPA Wants a Better, Badder Caspian Sea Monster

Liberty Lifter X-plane will leverage ground effect

4 min read
A rendering of a grey seaplane with twin fuselages and backwards-facing propellers
DARPA

Arguably, the primary job of any military organization is moving enormous amounts of stuff from one place to another as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some of that stuff is weaponry, but the vast majority are things that support that weaponry—fuel, spare parts, personnel, and so on. At the moment, the U.S. military has two options when it comes to transporting large amounts of payload. Option one is boats (a sealift), which are efficient, but also slow and require ports. Option two is planes (an airlift), which are faster by a couple of orders of magnitude, but also expensive and require runways.

To solve this, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to combine traditional sealift and airlift with the Liberty Lifter program, which aims to “design, build, and flight test an affordable, innovative, and disruptive seaplane” that “enables efficient theater-range transport of large payloads at speeds far exceeding existing sea lift platforms.”

Keep Reading ↓ Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":["29824201"]}

Modeling Microfluidic Organ-on-a-Chip Devices

Register for this webinar to enhance your modeling and design processes for microfluidic organ-on-a-chip devices using COMSOL Multiphysics

1 min read
Comsol Logo
Comsol

If you want to enhance your modeling and design processes for microfluidic organ-on-a-chip devices, tune into this webinar.

You will learn methods for simulating the performance and behavior of microfluidic organ-on-a-chip devices and microphysiological systems in COMSOL Multiphysics. Additionally, you will see how to couple multiple physical effects in your model, including chemical transport, particle tracing, and fluid–structure interaction. You will also learn how to distill simulation output to find key design parameters and obtain a high-level description of system performance and behavior.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less