DNA- and RNA-based electronic implants may revolutionize healthcare

DNA- and RNA-based electronic implants may revolutionize healthcare

The test tubes contain tiny DNA/enzyme-based circuits, which comprise TRUMPET, a new type of electronic device, smaller than a cell.

Courtesy Kate Adamala

Implantable electronic devices can significantly improve patients’ quality of life. A pacemaker can encourage the heart to beat more regularly. A neural implant, usually placed at the back of the skull, can help brain function and encourage higher neural activity. Current research on neural implants finds them helpful to patients with Parkinson’s disease, vision loss, hearing loss, and other nerve damage problems. Several of these implants, such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink, have already been approved by the FDA for human use.

Yet, pacemakers, neural implants, and other such electronic devices are not without problems. They require constant electricity, limited through batteries that need replacements. They also cause scarring. “The problem with doing this with electronics is that scar tissue forms,” explains Kate Adamala, an assistant professor of cell biology at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. “Anytime you have something hard interacting with something soft [like muscle, skin, or tissue], the soft thing will scar. That's why there are no long-term neural implants right now.” To overcome these challenges, scientists are turning to biocomputing processes that use organic materials like DNA and RNA. Other promised benefits include “diagnostics and possibly therapeutic action, operating as nanorobots in living organisms,” writes Evgeny Katz, a professor of bioelectronics at Clarkson University, in his bookDNA- And RNA-Based Computing Systems.

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Kenna Hughes-Castleberry
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a writer, podcaster, and science communicator. She currently works as the Science Communicator at JILA and is the Editor-in-Chief of their journal Light & Matter. She is also a freelance science journalist and writes for Inside Quantum Technology as a freelance staff editor. Her beats include deep technology, quantum technology, metaverse technology, and diversity within these industries. Kenna’s work has been featured in various publications including Scientific American, Discover Magazine, Ars Technica, Physics.org, Inside Quantum Technology, The Quantum Insider, The Deep Tech Insider, the Metaverse Insider, The Debrief, and Octonation. She currently sits on the board of SWARM (Science Writers Association of the Rocky Mountains) as well as teaches science writing to graduate students at JILA. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram: @kennaculture
MILESTONE: Doctors have transplanted a pig organ into a human for the first time in history

A surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital prepares a pig organ for transplant.

Michelle Rose/Massachusetts General Hospital

Surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital made history last week when they successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human patient for the first time ever.

The recipient was a 62-year-old man named Richard Slayman who had been living with end-stage kidney disease caused by diabetes. While Slayman had received a kidney transplant in 2018 from a human donor, his diabetes ultimately caused the kidney to fail less than five years after the transplant. Slayman had undergone dialysis ever since—a procedure that uses an artificial kidney to remove waste products from a person’s blood when the kidneys are unable to—but the dialysis frequently caused blood clots and other complications that landed him in the hospital multiple times.

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Sarah Watts

Sarah Watts is a health and science writer based in Chicago.

The World’s First Longevity Charter City: An interview with Niklas Anzinger.

Niklas Anzinger is the founder of Infinita VC based in the charter city of Prospera in Honduras. Infinita focuses on a new trend of charter cities and other forms of alternative jurisdictions. Healso hosts a podcast about how to accelerate the future by unblocking “stranded technologies”.This spring he was a part of the network city experiment Zuzalu spearheaded by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin where a few hundred invited guests from the spheres of longevity, biotechnology, crypto, artificial intelligence and investment came together to form a two-monthlong community. It has been described as the world’s first pop-up city. Every morning Vitalians would descend on a long breakfast—the menu had been carefully designed by famed radical longevity self-experimenter Bryan Johnson—and there is where I first met Anzinger who told me about Prospera. Intrigued to say the least, I caught up with him later the same week and the following is a record of our conversation.

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Ingemar Patrick Linden
Driven by a passion to probe the fundamental questions we are confronted with, Dr. INGEMAR PATRICK LINDEN has been on a journey of discovery taking him from Lund University in Sweden, to UCL in London, to University of California, to New York, where he has taught philosophy for almost a decade. Death. It does not get more fundamental than that. One of the ideas that has remained a firm conviction of the author’s since childhood is that we do not have enough time. We are but the beginnings of complete humans, fragments of what we could be. It was the realization that not all share this view, in fact, surveys show that most do not, that inspired, and necessitated, the writing of THE CASE AGAINST DEATH.