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8 news posts in Bioengineering and Biotechnology


10 May 2023

Scientists discover microbes in the Alps and Arctic that can digest plastic at low temperatures

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Image: Beat Stierli Scientists from Switzerland have identified 19 novel strains of cold-adapted specialist bacteria and fungi from the Alps and the Arctic region that can digest biodegradable plastics at 15°C. This ability, if upscaled to an industrial scale, will save money and energy during recycling Finding, cultivating, and bioengineering organisms that can digest plastic not only aids in the removal of pollution, but is now also big business. Several microorganisms that can do this have already been found, but when their enzymes that make this possible are applied at an industrial scale, they typically only work at temperatures above 30°C. The heating required means that industrial applications remain costly to date, and aren’t carbon-neutral. But there is a possible solution to this problem: finding specialist cold-adapted microbes whose enzymes work at lower temperatures. Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute WSL knew where to look for such micro-organisms: at high altitudes in the Alps of their country, or in the polar regions. Their findings are published in Frontiers in Microbiology. “Here we show that novel microbial taxa obtained from the ‘plastisphere’ of alpine and arctic soils were able to break down biodegradable plastics at […]

Featured news

28 Feb 2023

Scientists unveil plan to create biocomputers powered by human brain cells

by Liad Hollender, Frontiers science writer Credit: Thomas Hartung, Johns Hopkins University Despite AI’s impressive track record, its computational power pales in comparison with that of the human brain. Scientists today unveil a revolutionary path to drive computing forward: organoid intelligence (OI), where lab-grown brain organoids serve as biological hardware. “This new field of biocomputing promises unprecedented advances in computing speed, processing power, data efficiency, and storage capabilities – all with lower energy needs,” say the authors in an article published in Frontiers in Science.  Artificial intelligence (AI) has long been inspired by the human brain. This approach proved highly successful: AI boasts impressive achievements – from diagnosing medical conditions to composing poetry. Still, the original model continues to outperform machines in many ways. This is why, for example, we can ‘prove our humanity’ with trivial image tests online. What if instead of trying to make AI more brain-like, we went straight to the source?  Scientists across multiple disciplines are working to create revolutionary biocomputers where three-dimensional cultures of brain cells, called brain organoids, serve as biological hardware. They describe their roadmap for realizing this vision in the journal Frontiers in Science.   “We call this new interdisciplinary field ‘organoid intelligence’ […]

Robotics and AI

28 Feb 2023

‘My dream is for AI and brain organoids to explore each other’s capabilities’

by Liad Hollender, Frontiers science writer Image: Prof Thomas Hartung Over just a few decades, computers shrunk from massive installations to slick devices that fit in our pockets. But this dizzying trend might end soon, because we simply can’t produce small enough components. To keep driving computing forward, scientists are looking for alternative approaches. An article published in Frontiers in Science presents a revolutionary strategy, called organoid intelligence.   This emerging scientific field aims to create biocomputers where lab-grown brain organoids (three-dimensional brain-cell cultures) serve as biological hardware. According to the authors, this technology could also drive progress in biomedicine, providing unprecedented insight into the human brain.  To learn more about this exciting new field, we interviewed the senior author of the article, Prof Thomas Hartung. He is the director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing in Europe (CAAT-Europe), and a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.  How do you define organoid intelligence? Reproducing cognitive functions – such as learning and sensory processing – in a lab-grown human-brain model.   How did this idea emerge? I’m a pharmacologist and toxicologist, so I’m interested in developing medicines and identifying substances that are dangerous to our health, specifically […]