Skip to Content

Synthetic Biology on Display

Researchers are fooling around with E. coli.

Christopher Voigt and his research partners at the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Texas at Austin hacked the genes of E. coli bacteria, making each altered cell photosensitive. (Voigt is a member of the current TR35, our annual list of 35 exceptional innovators under the age of 35. He and the others were featured in the September/October 2006 issue.) Their first application of the technology, shown in this slide show, was a lawn of bacteria that acts like a photographic plate: when exposed to red light, the lawn reproduces an image inscribed into a stencil held between it and the light source. But this isn’t the goal of Voigt’s research–it’s just an example of the powerful possibilities raised by the young field of synthetic biology. The ability to precisely engineer and control micro­örganisms could lead to new bacterial factories that produce complex drugs or materials.

Multimedia

  • View the hack of the genes of E. coli bacteria.

Researchers extracted phytochromes, photoreceptive proteins, from cyanobacteria (shown here) to enable E. coli to be photosynthetic.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.