Sunday, 3 March 2019

Research: Bioengineering

A Brief History of the Future suggests that in 2070 bioluminescent lichens using DNA from squid were grown on buildings to provide lighting when the street lights failed, and other engineered bacteria and algae were used to provide power.

So I Googled it, and most of what I found was too technical for someone with no science background to understand, but I did get these examples:
  • Already bioengineering is producing fuel from algae to use instead of petrol.
Coral bleaching
  • The warming of the oceans are causing bleaching of the coral, but I didn't know that the coral themselves are not affected by the rise in temperature. Coral reefs are starving to death all over the world because the algae which feed them are intolerant of the changes in sea temperature. Work is underway to bioengineer the algae to increase their tolerance and thereby save the coral.
Woman with 3D printed jaw
  • 3D printing is relatively new but bioengineers are developing bio inks which include tissues and genetic materials to use in 3D printing for medical purposes. 3D bioprinting is being used to create tissues and organs for medical research, and to create scaffolding to help regenerate joints and ligaments. I remember a report last year about a woman who had a new jawbone 3D printed to reconstruct her face. Her own DNA was incorporated into the material to prevent rejection.
So no lighting lichens or algae electricity yet, but some pretty amazing developments.

Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, and book two Alien Secrets, are out now. Follow her at

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