Synthesising new life

New DNA type
Professor Floyd Romesberg (right) and Graduate Student Yorke Zhang led the new study at The Scripps Research Institute, along with Brian Lamb (not pictured).(Photo by Madeline McCurry-Schmidt.)

At the turn of 2017 a team of scientists led by a professor Romesburg published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US. The paper detailed their achievement of creating a semi synthetic life form. For years, scientists have had the ability to manipulate genes and we see the benefit with improved medicines and disease resistant crops. We even had Dolly the sheep and glow in the dark rabbits. Genetic engineering has become almost commonplace.

Read moreSynthesising new life

An introduction to synthetic biology

Ginkgo Bioworks' state-of-the-art synthetic biology lab
Ginkgo Bioworks’ state-of-the-art synthetic biology lab

DNA is the life code, the blueprint if you like, for designing living organisms. Just like in construction, changing the blueprint will result in a different end product. Biotechnology has traditionally used the same technique, tweaking the blueprint.

Read moreAn introduction to synthetic biology

Killarney National Park under threat

Glena, KIllarney National Park
Extensive Rhododendron growth on the lake shore at Glena, Lower Lake, Killarney

At the end of 2016 the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) called for Killarney National Park’s designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve to be withdrawn. This call was backed up by the leader of the Green Party, Eamon Ryan. Both IWT and the Green Party cite mismanagement of the park, overgrazing by deer and the threat that invasive species including Rhododendron poses to the national park as being key concerns.

Read moreKillarney National Park under threat

Separating the wheat from the chaff

“Red wine in moderation is good for you”… “No it’s not, all alcohol is bad”… “More than two eggs a week are bad for you”… “No they’re not, eggs are good for you”…

Open a newspaper or fire up the internet and you are hit with an avalanche of information. Some of it news worthy, some not, but all of it fighting for your attention. It can be hard to sort out the wheat from the chaff. With the advent of digital and social media, and the proliferation of smartphones, access to information and news is at our fingertips 24/7. This can be a good thing, with citizen reporters bringing us news from the front lines and sharing unique perspectives on events. It can also be a bad thing, allowing every lunatic or corporation with an agenda and an internet connection to masquerade as a journalist.

Read moreSeparating the wheat from the chaff

Life provides

This simple mould led to the development of antibiotics

Figures vary, but many scientists estimate that there are in the region of 5 million different species alive on our planet today. Life is everywhere. Evolution has seen to that. Wherever there is a living to be made, some species or other has adapted to fill this niche and thrive. Life can be strange and beautiful, full of wonderful adaptations and ornamentations.

Read moreLife provides