Bacteria are everywhere. Therefore, it’s a safe assumption that they should also be present in plastic recycle factories. With this line of reasoning Japanese researchers took 250 soil samples in the piles of waste and the wastewater of a recycle factory in the Japanese city Sakai. There they hoped to find a microbe, which, after years of inhabiting the plastic pool, had naturally evolved the ability to digest plastic (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET to be exact).
Henk Jonkers, a microbiologist at the Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, has developed a way to make the cracks in concrete structures heal themselves. This is accomplished by embedding the concrete with limestone producing bacteria – the Bacilus Pseudofirmus or the Sporosacina Pasteurii.
Sample collection in hard-to-reach and harsh environments has often made scientific research a costly and dangerous exercise. Luckily technology has helped us overcome some of these difficulties.
Although costly robots, for instance, have for a long time been the equipment of choice to collect samples in space. But there is a new competitor for the robot space-sample collector. Experiments have shown that a remarkable amount of small organisms are able to survive in space. ESA researchers have send living kombucha bacteria into space to look for signs of life.
Imagine you could grow your own clothes, using fermented tea, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms that can spin the ingredients into eco-friendly fibers. This is exactly what fashion designer Suzanne Lee pioneered. She investigated the possibility of creating clothing through the use of microbial cellulose. For this research project Lee coined the term Biocouture, which transitioned to a biocreative consultancy some years ago.
Today, she is the Creative Director of Modern Meadow Inc, an innovative New York-based team of scientists, engineers, designers and artisans developing cultured animal products and exploring new ways to create sustainable animal materials, such as lab-grown leather. Lee is also founder of Biofabricate, the leading event for the field of design, biology and technology, focused on the emerging world of grown materials.
We recently talked with Suzanne Lee about the textile industry and technology, growing leather in the lab, and the use of new alternative materials in the future of fashion.
Nadine Bongaerts is a Dutch synthetic biologist and entrepreneur who is building bridges between science, business and society. Fascinated by engineering life at the smallest scale, she designs bacteria with new functions. In 2010, she joined a team of TU Delft students to participated in the worldwide synthetic biology competition iGEM (Internationally Genetically Engineered Machine) for which they developed DNA bricks that turned bacteria into minuscule oil-degrading cells. The work was recognized nationally and internationally and awarded with different prizes. Her current research focuses on using genetic engineering of bacteria to produce a pearl-like material with advanced mechanical properties.
Bongaerts is always looking for creative ways to share her knowledge and connect science to societal developments. This resulted in the co-founding of Biotecture (2011), a company for communication and education of Life Sciences. Since 2014, she is Global Community Director of Hello Tomorrow in which she leads a global network of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and investors to stimulate interdisciplinary collaborations that accelerate scientific findings to the market.
We recently talk to Nadine Bongaerts about the role and impact of synthetic biology, the gap between biosciences and society and the importance of communication to overcome the fear of new technologies.
Anti-vaccination movement is a hot topic these days. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently sponsored a series of artworks, named The Art of Saving a Life, in order to overcome the fear of vaccination. One of these artworks, called Flowers, creates beautiful wallpapers out of smallpox vaccine.
So, you are well aware that biotech will drive our evolution, you took the crash course on synthetic genomics, you’ve got your map of the DNA world in your backpack and are now eager to redesign some microbes that turn waste into energy, eat plastic, detect flu, or build a better being altogether? You have a brilliant project plan already, but only need some – let say– euro 25.000 and a bit of help from a research group to turn your vision into reality? We have cake for you.