Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Rewriting Life

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

Meet the Experts in AI, Robotics and the Economy at EmTech Next.

Learn more and register
More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.