Hacking The Wooly Mammoth

In case you can’t get enough Jurassic Park movies, you can look forward to plans a biotech company has to hybridize endangered Asian elephants with long-extinct wooly mammoths using gene splicing and other exotic techniques.

Expect a long movie, the team hopes to have calves after six years and we don’t think a theme park is in the making. The claim is that mammoth traits will help the elephants reclaim the tundra, but we can’t help but think it is just an excuse to reanimate an extinct animal. If you read popular press reports, there is some question if the ecological mission claimed by the company is realistic. However, we can’t deny it would be cool to bring an animal back from extinction — sort of.

We aren’t DNA wizards, so we only partially understand what’s being proposed. Apparently, skin cells from a modern elephant will serve as a base to accept extracted mammoth DNA. This might seem far-fetched but turns out the mammoth lived much more recently than we usually think. When they die in their natural deep-freeze environment, they are often well preserved.

Once the gene splicing is set up, a surrogate elephant will carry the embryo to term. The hope is that the improved breed would be able to further interbreed with natural species, although with the gestation and maturity times of elephants, this will be a very long time to bear fruit.

So how do you feel about it? Will we face a movie-level disaster? Will we get some lab curiosity creatures? Will it save the tundra? Let us know what you think in the comments.

DNA manipulation has gone from moon-shot-level tech to readily accessible in a very short amount of time. In particular, CRISPR, changes everything and is both exciting and scary on what it puts in the hands of nearly anyone.

Open-Source Insulin: Biohackers Aiming For Distributed Production

When you’ve got a diabetic in your life, there are few moments in any day that are free from thoughts about insulin. Insulin is literally the first coherent thought I have every morning, when I check my daughter’s blood glucose level while she’s still asleep, and the last thought as I turn out the lights, making sure she has enough in her insulin pump to get through the night. And in between, with the constant need to calculate dosing, adjust levels, add corrections for an unexpected snack, or just looking in the fridge and counting up the number of backup vials we have on hand, insulin is a frequent if often unwanted intruder on my thoughts.

And now, as my daughter gets older and seeks like any teenager to become more independent, new thoughts about insulin have started to crop up. Insulin is expensive, and while we have excellent insurance, that can always change in a heartbeat. But even if it does, the insulin must flow — she has no choice in the matter. And so I thought it would be instructional to take a look at how insulin is made on a commercial scale, in the context of a growing movement of biohackers who are looking to build a more distributed system of insulin production. Their goal is to make insulin affordable, and with a vested interest, I want to know if they’ve got any chance of making that goal a reality.

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We’re Cloning Animals From The “Frozen Zoo”; Like A Seed Bank But For Animals

Seed banks are facilities of great value to biodiversity and agriculture around the world. These facilities are used to house stocks of seeds of a wide variety, helping to maintain genetic diversity and avoid the permanent loss of various plant species. While there are some challenges, the basic requirements to run a simple seed bank are to keep a selection of seeds at low temperature and humidity to maximise their viable lifespan.

When it comes to animals, things become more difficult — one can’t simply plant an old seed in the ground and grow a fresh new meerkat, for example. Preservation of animal genetic material poses its own unique set of challenges — ones that the San Diego “Frozen Zoo” don’t shy away from. They’ve recently shown the viability of the program with the healthy birth of a ferret cloned from an animal that died in 1988.

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Primer Tutorials For Arduino IR Remote Cloning And Keyboard Simulation

We’ve featured loads of IR Arduino projects and they are all exciting and unique. The projects spring from a specific need or problem where a custom infrared remote control is the solution. [Rick’s] double feature we’re sharing in this article is no exception, but what is interesting and different about [Rick’s] projects is his careful and deliberate tutorial delivery on how to copy infrared remote codes, store the codes with a flavor of Arduino and then either transmit or receive the codes to control devices.

In the case of his space heater an Arduino was used to record and later retransmit the “power on” IR code to the heater before he awakes on a cold morning. This way his room is toasty warm before he has to climb out from under the covers, which has the added benefit of saving the cost of running the heater all night. Brilliant idea if you don’t have a programmable heating system. Maybe he will add a temperature sensor someday so it doesn’t have to run on strictly time.

A more complicated problem was controlling DVD playback software on his computer remotely. [Rick] says he sits at a distance when watching DVDs on his computer but his computer doesn’t have a remote control like a normal TV. Arduino to the rescue again! But this time he pulls out a Teensyduino because of its added feature of being able to emulate a keyboard and of course the computer DVD playback software accepts keyboard commands. Once again he used the “IRremote.h” library to record certain button codes from an old remote control before adding the retrieved codes to a Teensyduino setup and programmed to receive and decode the remote’s IR signals. The Teensyduino then maps the IR codes to known keyboard shortcuts and transmits the simulated keyboard shortcut commands to the computer via its USB cable where the DVD playback software recognizes the key commands.

As always [Rick] shares all his libraries and sketches on his blog so follow the above links to download the files. You will not miss a single step if you follow his excellent videos below. Plus, here are some other ways and other tools for using an IR remote with your Arduino and cloning an infrared remote.

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