61 results for “Microbial Factories”

Next Generation: Get to know Valerie Daude

Ruben Baart
October 17th 2019

This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Kicking off this series is Valerie Daude, a recent MA graduate in Social Design from the Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE). She is interested in how gut bacteria play critical roles in maintaining our human health in many aspects, and aims to understand how …

Experience bio design at Dutch Design Week 2019

NextNature.net
October 2nd 2019

Bio design crosses the border between the ‘made’ and the ‘born’. Enabling living organisms as essential design elements, it brings us products that adapt, grow, sense and repair themselves. For those new to the subject (and those in the know) who would like to gain (more) experience on what bio design encompasses; this is for you.

The Microbial Vending Machine by Emma van der Leest Bio Design Talks

We've been asked to curate a program for DDW to bring you …

This bio-brick is made out of urine mixed with sand and bacteria

Helen Swingler
October 30th 2018

The world’s first bio-brick grown from human urine has been unveiled by University of Cape Town (UCT) master’s student in civil engineering Suzanne Lambert, signalling an innovative paradigm shift in waste recovery. …

Sandra Rey wins ECO Coin Award

NextNature.net
February 1st 2018
This year we are proud to announce that, with her ambitious work within the field of bioluminescence for Glowee, Sandra Rey is the ECO Coin Award 2017 winner.

Rothko in Salts

Alec Schellinx
December 12th 2017
The multiplication of bacteria "paints" this lake with peculiar colours. Tints vary along magenta, green and yellow, giving it Rothko-like appearance.

ECO Coin Award Interviews: Sandra Rey

Jack Caulfield
November 20th 2017
We asked Sandra Rey, our third ECO Coin Award nominee, about her company Glowee and her hopes for illuminating the future in a more sustainable way.

Bacteria Are the New Hard Drives

Daniel Fraga
July 21st 2017
DNA is the densest known storage medium in the universe - and Harvard University researchers have managed to use it to store GIFs inside bacteria.

Interview: Lining Yao, Interaction Designer and Maker of Novel Materials

Alessia Andreotti
June 29th 2017
We recently interviewed Lining Yao, Chinese interaction designer who uses organic materials as a technology that brings us back to nature.

Plastic-Eating Worm Can Help Ease Pollution

Elle Zhan Wei
May 2nd 2017
A recently discovered plastic eating worm could be used to safely digest our massive plastic waste.

Bacteria Use Electronic Messaging

Julie Reindl
February 18th 2017
Bacteria use electronic messaging system to recruit new workers.
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This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Kicking off this series is Valerie Daude, a recent MA graduate in Social Design from the Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE). She is interested in how gut bacteria play critical roles in maintaining our human health in many aspects, and aims to understand how biological organisms interact with their human host.

This research has led her to design the Microbial Self project, a series of interactive facial prosthetics that measure and visualize the diversity of microbial species inside our guts, hence give insides on our bodily and mental health condition.

According to the designer, "the masks act as body extensions that enable a dialogue between us and the microorganisms inside of us. Displaying your 'inside' in the middle of your face, hiding your identity and sharing it with your microorganisms."

Welcome to the Next Generation: Get to know Valerie Daude.

Where does your fascination for microbial design come from?

As a woman of 1,92m, standard organizations like ISO or DIN consider my size non-standard. As a result, the world that has been built does not fit my body size and makes me experience the negative aspects of industry standards every day.

This motivated me to research ergonomic theory, the process of normalization and standardization of the human body, and especially historic concepts of the normal or average.

I found that the first physical unit of measurement was the human body itself. The resulting anthropic units went beyond focusing on the body, and were used to define the dimensions of the world.

How did this insight inform your work?

While trying to define alternative units to measure the human body, I learned that our physical and mental health is highly influenced by trillions of microorganisms that live within, on and around us. 

The differences between bodies on a microscopic level have a much bigger impact on humans’ overall wellbeing, more than differences in size and dimension. This insight made me change my focus from defining a body through its anthropometric measurements to interpreting the body in a much smaller and much more diverse unit — I started to investigate the microorganisms inside the body. 

Tell us a bit more about these microorganisms

Only 43% of each human body's total cell amount is human. The remaining 57% are microorganisms, like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Their population and genetic material are referred to as the human microbiome.

Bacteria far outnumber other microbes, and most species are found in the gut. Their diversity is essential for many aspects of our physical and mental well being. Between 400 and up to 1000 different bacteria species live in a healthy gut. The more different species you have, the better it is for your body.

They help us to digest certain food, synthesize vitamins, balance our immune system, and through the gut-brain axis, they influence our cognitive functions, mood, and even our behavior.

Each human body has its own unique set of microbes that constantly change over a lifetime. Diet, exercise, hygiene, medication and many other influences from our environment determine the composition of our microbes.

We constantly influence our microbial bodies without being aware of the impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.

And your project aims to visualize this?

Yes, I am working on methods to measure, visualize and display the diversity of our gut bacteria. Therefore I developed the concept of Microbial Masks, which have an integrated breath test that analyzes the diversity of gut bacteria through chemicals in your breath.

With every breath, the mask translates the results into a readable color code that is displayed on the mask.

Who are the masks for?

First and foremost, it's an ongoing design research project. At this stage, the project aims to explore through speculation how relationships between humans, as well as between humans and microbes, will be affected through advances in microbiome research.

To date, the relationship between humans and microorganisms has largely been biased. Microorganisms, especially bacteria, are primarily associated with diseases, contamination, and death.

Changes in present-day society such as diets with increased sugar, salt, and saturated fat, insufficient exercise, overuse of antibiotics, disinfectants, and pesticides cause a microbial imbalance in our environments and our bodies.

This contributes to an increase in obesity, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, depression, and mental health concerns. We need a paradigm shift, from thinking about microbes as enemies that have to be eliminated and destroyed, to thinking about achieving a healthy microbiotic environment within and around us. 

Where could you see the masks first introduced?

In a later stage of the project, the breath test technology could be implemented into wearable healthcare devices.

Nowadays, patients have little power in most healthcare systems and are depending on the decisions of healthcare professionals. Through self-tracking devices, individuals can get involved in the management of their microbial balance within the gut, and by extension, their overall health.

Would you wear this yourself?

I would wear and present the Microbial Masks on public events, symposiums, or exhibitions and invite others to test them. The main purpose of them is to open up conversations about the future application of microbiome research, data security, and to challenge the relationship between humans and microorganisms.

This phase of the project is not about introducing the design or technology to the market. Rather, the purpose is to gather people around these speculative objects as a way of maintaining interdisciplinary debate and creating new perspectives on scientific research.

The Microbial Masks are physical, haptic and form interactive conversation pieces that challenge the senses and imagination, triggering the exchange of insights between different professions, from artists to scientists, to learn from each other’s perspectives.

On a scale from 1-10, how speculative is the project?

I see this project as a near-future scenario in which healthcare becomes much more personal, political and expressive. In general, I would rate it a 7.

There are some parts, like the breath test, which is still a concept. But there are already diagnostic tools, like the hydrogen breath test, that can measure bacterial growth in your digestive tract through chemicals in your breath.

Also, the application of this technology in a mask can not be ruled out. In China, it is already very common to wear masks in public for health reasons. Although it is much more likely that many would prefer to keep the information gathered by the Microbial Mask private. 

Apart from that, the potential of microbiome research in healthcare is real. More and more at-home gut bacteria testing kits appear on the market. They all claim to help improve health.

Although the tests are questionable, in terms of their reliability, the market is growing rapidly. I took this extremely impersonal and quite slow procedure and transformed it into a more sensual and faster method: a breath test.

The microbiome holds the ability to influence our body, identity, health. Masks aside, one may argue that designing your microbiome is a form of biohacking, would you agree? Why?

Yes, definitely. Biohacking doesn't have to be related to micro-dosing, LSD or implanting chips. It's also about the controlled enhancement of your physical and cognitive performance, through the use of technology and biology.

There is constant interaction between microorganisms and hosts, autonomous processes of unconscious exchange that can enhance or decrease the host's performance. Humans are influencing their gut microbiome through everything they eat, inhale, absorb, digest and synthesize. Presumed that this influence may be conscious, guided, and goal-oriented, it can be interpreted as biohacking. Thereby the goal is to enhance the host’s overall health, cognitive function, and performance achieved through a balanced and diverse gut microbiome.

Why should we share this data?

Our body produces measurable data at every moment, and we could use this data to improve care and find new treatments for disease. Due to emerging molecular technologies, scientific knowledge and advances in human microbiome research are booming. This will inevitably bring striking changes in  understanding ourselves, normalcy, health, and illness, and consequently transform medical care, plus personal and public health.

The enormous amount of data we could generate by monitoring all those autonomous microorganism processes in our gut, with every single breath, holds exciting potential for researchers and doctors - on the condition that the collected data remains anonymous and is protected to prevent its misuse. This data could improve healthcare and find new treatments for disease.

Understanding how microorganisms interact with their human hosts could explain different aspects of many complex diseases. We can gain better insight into metabolic diseases, diabetes and Alzheimers, immunological and autoimmune diseases, or even behavioral changes, like depression and anxiety, or autism and ADHD in children.

What’s the dream scenario for this design? What’s the nightmare?

The nightmare would be if microbial data would be used to exclude, discriminate, or disadvantage people. It could be extremely problematic if insurance companies or employers want to have access to this kind of data. Furthermore, choice of friends and partners may be influenced, since body contact significantly influences the microbial communities on a human's skin.

The dream scenario is to use microbiome research to improve healthcare and to create a collective understanding of the importance of microbes for ourselves and our environment.

I designed the three Microbial Masks based on bodily systems which are highly influenced by our microbes. The digestive system, the respiratory system, and the immune system. In the future, wearables in healthcare may be defined as an extension of the body, technology that merges with your body like an external organ. I am not a big fan of the sleek industrial design of standard wearables in healthcare today. The aesthetic translations of my research are also visual proposals for a more expressive and sensual design of future wearable healthcare products.

We live in a microbial world, without being aware of it. We might need to conceptualize the human body as an ecosystem and the human being as a superorganism, rather than a single individual.

Catch Microbial Self as part of the Dutch Design Week at the DAE Graduation Show 2019. From 19 — 27 October at Melkfabriek, Eindhoven.

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Bio design crosses the border between the ‘made’ and the ‘born’. Enabling living organisms as essential design elements, it brings us products that adapt, grow, sense and repair themselves. For those new to the subject (and those in the know) who would like to gain (more) experience on what bio design encompasses; this is for you.

The Microbial Vending Machine by Emma van der Leest

Bio Design Talks

We've been asked to curate a program for DDW to bring you up to speed with the rapidly evolving field of bio design. On 23 October, our editor-in-chief Ruben Baart talks crossing the border between the 'made' and the 'born' with a number of leading thinkers and makers.

The program features an introductory keynote by William Myers, author of Bio Design: Nature, Science, Creativity; visual keynotes by bio designers Teresa van Dongen and Emma van der Leest; keen insights by Prof. Pirjo Kääriänen, founder of CHEMARTS, a collaboration of Aalto CHEM and Aalto ARTS, at the Aalto University; and an inspirational talk by DDW Ambassador Jalila Essaïdi, founder of the BioArt Laboratories.

We conclude the program with a panel debate alongside Jalila Essaïdi, Koert van Mensvoort and Willem Velthoven, followed by drinks and bites.

What? DDW Talks: Bio Design
When? 23 October 2019 from 1.30pm to 5pm
Where? FIFTH | NRE, Gasfabriek 5, Eindhoven

Tickets This event is part of the professionals program (register for early bird €75 via this link). But members of Next Nature Network attend this event for free! Drop us a line to claim your ticket.

Not a member yet? Join here... and get the Next Nature book for free!

Research by Eeva Suorlahti, CHEMARTS

Bio Design Route

Hungry for more? That's more like it! Discover the latest in bio design along our scenic route through the city of light. Enjoy:

Visit the Dutch Design Week from 19-27 October in Eindhoven. Follow us on Instagram, here we feature the most inspiring #nextnature projects at DDW19 in the coming weeks!

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The world’s first bio-brick grown from human urine has been unveiled by University of Cape Town (UCT) master’s student in civil engineering Suzanne Lambert, signalling an innovative paradigm shift in waste recovery.

The bio-bricks are created through a natural process called microbial carbonate precipitation. It’s not unlike the way seashells are formed, said Lambert’s supervisor Dr Dyllon Randall, a senior lecturer in water quality engineering.

In this case, loose sand is colonised with bacteria that produce urease. An enzyme, the urease breaks down the urea in urine while producing calcium carbonate through a complex chemical reaction. This cements the sand into any shape, whether it’s a solid column, or now, for the first time, a rectangular building brick.

For the past few months Lambert and civil engineering honours student Vukheta Mukhari have been hard at work in the laboratory testing various bio-brick shapes and tensile strengths to produce an innovative building material. Mukhari is being co-supervised by Professor Hans Beushausen, also from the civil engineering department. Beushausen is helping to test the products.

The development is also good news for the environment and global warming as bio-bricks are made in moulds at room temperature. Regular bricks are kiln-fired at temperatures around 1 400°C and produce vast quantities of carbon dioxide.

The strength of the bio-bricks would depend on client needs.

“If a client wanted a brick stronger than a 40% limestone brick, you would allow the bacteria to make the solid stronger by ‘growing’ it for longer,” said Randall.

“The longer you allow the little bacteria to make the cement, the stronger the product is going to be. We can optimise that process.”

Images: The various stages of the making of the world’s first bio-brick created from human urine in a process not unlike the way seashells are formed.

Foundational work

The concept of using urea to grow bricks was tested in the United States some years back using synthetic solutions, but Lambert’s brick uses real human urine for the first time, with significant consequences for waste recycling ­and upcycling. Her work builds on foundational research by Jules Henze, a Swiss student who spent four months working with Randall on this concept in 2017.

“It’s what I love about research. You build on the foundations of other work,” said Randall.

The various stages of the making of the world’s first bio-brick created from human urine in a process not unlike the way seashells are formed.

Fertilisers as by-products

In addition, the bio-brick process produces as by-products nitrogen and potassium, which are important components of commercial fertilisers.

Chemically speaking, urine is liquid gold, according to Randall. It accounts for less than 1% of domestic waste water (by volume) but contains 80% of the nitrogen, 56% of the phosphorus and 63% of the potassium of this waste water.

Some 97% of the phosphorus present in the urine can be converted into calcium phosphate, the key ingredient in fertilisers that underpin commercial farming worldwide. This is significant because the world’s natural phosphate reserves are running dry.

Zero waste

The fertilisers are produced as part of the phased process used to produce the bio-bricks.

First, urine is collected in novel fertiliser-producing urinals and used to make a solid fertiliser. The remaining liquid is then used in the biological process to grow the bio-brick.

“But in that process, we’re only after two components: carbonate ions and the calcium. What we do last is take the remaining liquid product from the bio-brick process and make a second fertiliser,” he explained.

The overall scheme would effectively result in zero waste, with the urine completely converted into three useful products.

“No-one’s looked at it in terms of that entire cycle and the potential to recover multiple valuable products. The next question is how to do that in an optimised way so that profit can be created from urine.”

There are also logistics to be considered; urine collection and transport to a resource recovery. Randall has discussed these opportunities in a recent review paper on urine. Another of his master’s students is investigating the transport logistics of urine collection and treatment with some very promising results.

Social acceptance is another consideration.

“At the moment we’re only dealing with urine collection from male urinals because that’s socially accepted. But what about the other half of the population?”

In the run-up to unveiling the bio-brick, both students expressed optimism about the potential of innovation in the sustainability space.

“This project has been a huge part of my life for the past year and a half, and I see so much potential for the process’s application in the real world. I can’t wait for when the world is ready for it,” Lambert said.

“Working on this project has been an eye-opening experience. Given the progress made in the research here at UCT, creating a truly sustainable construction material is now a possibility,” Mukhari added.

Randall said the work is creating paradigm shifts with respect to how society views waste and the upcycling of that waste.

“In this example you take something that is considered a waste and make multiple products from it. You can use the same process for any waste stream. It’s about rethinking things,” he said.

Image Credit: Robyn Walker / MIT
This article originally appeared on University of Cape Town News. Source article here.

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This year we have had entries from around the world and have interviewed our top three candidates: Shubendhu Sharma for his Tiny Forrests initiative, Ritsert Mans and Peter Mooij for their algae powered bike and Sandra Rey for her work in the field of bioluminescence. It has been difficult to choose but we are delighted to announce that Sandra Rey is our 2017 ECO Coin Award winner.The NNN jury found that her work was interesting on a number of levels. From a practical perspective Rey is striving to create an entirely new lighting system that could become more sustainable than anything we have ever known. From a more philosophical perspective she is trying to create a living product. Sustainably minded businesses and organisations often talk about their products from cradle to grave, or now from cradle to cradle. This is a truly fitting description of bioluminescent lights that really are born, live and die.[caption id="attachment_80067" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Glowee.eu[/caption]As founder and CEO of Glowee, Rey's mission is to reduce the 19% share of electricity used in the world for lighting, which accounts for 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. She is also looking at the social side of this technology which has the potential to provide light to people or places without access to electricity. Of course it's more than just a light. In her words: "It is about creating new biological resources; until now, we have been wasting the biomass which could be helping us with light creation. It’s about changing the paradigm of light to really enter the bioeconomy era". An era that ties biology and economy together is one that we at NNN certainly want to be a part of.[caption id="attachment_80066" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Glowee.eu[/caption]Thank you to all the submissions for the ECO Coin Award, a special thanks to our finalists and once again congratulations to Sandra Rey! We look forward to Sandra visiting the Next Nature Network HQ in Amsterdam later this year.____________________Do you want to stay up to date about the ECO Coin and other NNN news? Make sure to join Next Nature Network and never miss a thing! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => Sandra Rey wins ECO Coin Award [post_excerpt] => This year we are proud to announce that, with her ambitious work within the field of bioluminescence for Glowee, Sandra Rey is the ECO Coin Award 2017 winner. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => sandra-rey-eco-coin-award-2017-winner [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-12-07 11:28:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-12-07 10:28:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=80058/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 78557 [post_author] => 1419 [post_date] => 2017-12-12 09:52:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-12 08:52:51 [post_content] => Located in northern China Shanxi province, this dreamy landscape, Xiechi Lake, is consider by some to be China’s dead sea. This 500 million years old saline lake, on which a human could easily float, randomly changes colour as a result of extreme heat. It is the multiplication of bacteria, or algal bloom, that "paints" the lake with these peculiar colours. Tints vary along magenta, green and yellow gradients, giving a Rothko-like appearance to the scenery, and making it our peculiar image of the week. Via NatGeo. [post_title] => Rothko in Salts [post_excerpt] => The multiplication of bacteria "paints" this lake with peculiar colours. Tints vary along magenta, green and yellow, giving it Rothko-like appearance. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => rothko-salts-lake [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 09:56:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 08:56:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=78557/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 78649 [post_author] => 1425 [post_date] => 2017-11-20 09:00:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-20 07:00:24 [post_content] => The world is changing and it’s important that we evolve with it. The ECO Coin Award is our way of recognizing innovations and initiatives which help us adapt to our next nature. The nominees are all aiming to create a more humane and sustainable future for us all. Now, in the lead-up to the announcement of this year’s winner, we’re interviewing each of the three finalists to learn about their values, insights and visions for the future. This week, we spoke to Sandra Rey, founder of Glowee, nominated in recognition of her work to harness bioluminescence as a new light source.Glowee works with common bacteria, encoding into them the same genes that allow certain marine creatures to glow in the dark. These bacteria are placed into transparent shells, which make up the lights themselves. Bioluminescence creates a strange sort of light, but this technique allows for self-sufficient and energy-sparing light sources. Rey hopes to revolutionize the way we look at lighting.In the Q&A below, we asked Rey about her inspiration, the science behind Glowee and the impact she expects to have.Bioluminescence obviously inspired you. Was the process of harnessing it difficult? How does it work? Bioluminescence has been a very well-known phenomenon since the 1980s, and it is used today in a lot of laboratories as a biomarker. It is a chemical reaction occurring in nature which produces light. Several genes are responsible for this reaction. A lot of flora and fauna - like fireflies, glow worms and mushrooms - are able to glow. Besides these, also 80% of the known species in the ocean can emit light. We use certain marine genes coding for bioluminescence, allowing our micro-organism to produce biological light.
 Nature has all the solutions to our issues
Technology that works with the natural world, rather than against it, is fascinating. Do you think this approach is the way forward to sustainable technologies?Nature itself has done more than 3.8 billion years of research and development to find the most sustainable and efficient solutions. We are the ones disturbing these perfect circles of life. We deeply believe that nature has all the solutions to our issues. That is why taking inspiration from nature makes perfect sense, and why we aim to reproduce its light generation capacities with the new technologies of synthetic biology.In addition to practical applications, you also talk about the aesthetic and artistic qualities of bioluminescence. What do you think makes this kind of light so unique to look at?We have no idea about the scientific phenomenon that makes bioluminescence so beautiful to watch. Supposedly, the fact that it is a cold light (less than 2% heat) and the particular wavelength could be part of the answer.[caption id="attachment_78653" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Glowee.eu[/caption]Is it important to you to retain this ethereal quality, or is the goal to make bioluminescence resemble other kinds of lighting more closely?Our ambition is to redesign the urban landscape of tomorrow with the help of this new light source. We hope it will solve economic, ecological and sanitary issues. We want bioluminescence to revolutionize the way we produce, consume and illuminate. So, we want a total disruption in the way lighting sources are used.What does the future hold for Glowee? Are you working on improvements to the intensity and colour of the lighting technology itself? Will we see bioluminescent streetlights in the years to come?We are working to increase the intensity and efficiency of the system, to design an amazing added-value lighting solution. Hopefully, Glowee lights will start to appear on the streets within the next five years.
Our ambition is to redesign the urban landscape with this new light source
You are nominated for the ECO Coin award, which celebrates innovations in sustainability. How do you feel your work fits in with broader sustainability efforts?Developing a bioluminescent source of light does not mean replacing a light bulb with a Glowee. It means much more than that. It’s about reducing the waste of natural resources through growing raw material, cutting electricity consumption and therefore CO2 emissions. But it is also about creating new biological resources; until now, we have been wasting the biomass which could be helping us with light creation. It’s about changing the paradigm of light to really enter the bioeconomy era.We would like to congratulate and thank all our ECO Coin Award nominees. Stay tuned, we will announce the winner soon! [post_title] => ECO Coin Award Interviews: Sandra Rey [post_excerpt] => We asked Sandra Rey, our third ECO Coin Award nominee, about her company Glowee and her hopes for illuminating the future in a more sustainable way. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => eco-coin-interview-sandra-rey [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-23 07:55:37 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-23 05:55:37 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=78649/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 76412 [post_author] => 859 [post_date] => 2017-07-21 08:48:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-21 06:48:41 [post_content] => DNA is the densest known storage medium in the universe. It can store immense amounts of data in a very tiny amount of space. To give some perspective, these building blocks of life can hold 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 (one quintillion) bytes of information in a cubic millimeter. That is why researchers, from Harvard to Microsoft, are looking for ways to leverage this incredible resource.Harvard University geneticist George Church and his team have recently achieved a remarkable feat: storing a GIF inside bacteria. Using the CRISPR gene editing system, they have managed to interfere with the genome of the Escherichia Coli bacteria.[caption id="attachment_76415" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Here is a simple representation a DNA structure showing the four types of nucleotides.[/caption]

How it works:

The way our DNA stores information is through nucleotides. They are divided into four types: A, T, C and G. Their pairing creates the storage system for genetic information. Similar to what binary computing language does with 1's and 0's. And that is where George Church’s team has been storing its GIFs.This Harvard research team has converted the individual pixels of each image into nucleotides. The images showed a galloping horse and its rider, coincidentally the first stop-motion photographs ever. English photographer Eadweard Muybridge originally created this sequence in the 1870's.[video width="1200" height="448" mp4="//97351-275801-1-raikfcquaxqncofqfm.stackpathdns.com/app/uploads/2017/07/horsegif_0.gif.mp4" loop="true" autoplay="true"][/video]By sequencing the DNA of the bacteria, the scientists were able to reconstruct the data they had stored. The accuracy of this method of “translation”, between the language of biology and that of technology, so to speak - was of 90 percent. The images you see above are rather small, since they are only 36x26 pixels in size. Nonetheless, they represent a step in a promising direction.

Now what?

We’re still far away from unlocking the full potential of DNA storage for everyday use by humans. For example, there is still a big difference in storing information in synthetic DNA and in biological DNA. The latter is much more challenging than the former. Living bacteria divide, grow and die in a way that is challenging for the geneticists who are trying to use their DNA as reliable storage. That's why the achievement of George Church's team is so important.Despite all the upcoming challenges, this could be the first steps into a whole new world of possibilitys for Humankind. “What we really want to make are cells that encode biological or environmental information about what’s going on within them and around them” says Seth Shipman, a scientist working in Church’s lab at Harvard. In other words, we could be translating the language of biology into the language of computers, making it more accessible and understandable for humans.Finally, this could mean that one day your biological information will be intermingled with synthetic information. You would carry all your digital data at all times with you as a part of your organism. Every photo you’ve ever taken, every movie you’ve ever watched and every document you’ve ever saved could be embedded right in your skin, in your own DNA.Sources:MIT Technology Review: Scientists Used CRISPR to Put a GIF Inside a Living Organism’s DNAMIT Technology Review: Microsoft has a Plan to Add Data Storage to its Cloud [post_title] => Bacteria Are the New Hard Drives [post_excerpt] => DNA is the densest known storage medium in the universe - and Harvard University researchers have managed to use it to store GIFs inside bacteria. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => storing-gifs-dna [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-27 10:47:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-27 08:47:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=76412/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 75776 [post_author] => 809 [post_date] => 2017-06-29 10:23:38 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-29 08:23:38 [post_content] => Real innovations are high tech but analogic, they are created by mixing biology, genetics and design to save energy and resources. This is the concept behind Lining Yao’s work, Chinese interaction designer and maker of novel materials and interfaces. She recently completed her PhD at Tangible Media Group, MIT Media Lab in Boston, where she focused on pushing Human Computer Interaction towards Human Material Interaction, and she is now Assistant Professor at HCII Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.We met her in Milan, where she gave a lecture at Meet The Media Guru, the Italian platform that invites innovators from all over the world to share their ideas and projects (last April NNN director Koert van Mensvoort was also their guest).“I don't have a definition of my work, but I think traditional disciplines have a blurred boundary currently, and we are inventing a new discipline”. Yao operates somewhere between design, engineering and science and uses organic materials as a technology that brings us back to nature, to the original form of life. “I think we could alter nature with technology in a positive way. Going forward, with the same respect to nature as our ancestors did, but with a scientific understanding of nature across scales and from the bottom up. Going forward, we return to nature but a programmable nature”.

Going forward, we return to nature but a programmable nature

Yao takes advantage of the adaptability characteristics that exist in nature to create products that react to different environments, without using energy or electricity. This way even a pinecone can become a smart material. “When the rain wash the pinecones out from the tree to the ground these pinecones are closed, if you pick them up and let them dry they will open, but if you put them back into water they will close again. A little humble pinecone is a nature grown smart material, because it transforms and responds to water opening and closing, and this transformation is reversible and does not need electricity”.

A humble pinecone is a smart material

Similar to how a pinecone behaves, some bacteria called bacillus subtilis natto expand and contract depending on the humidity levels detected in the surrounding air; the more humidity, the bigger the bacteria gets. Yao uses these bacteria as natural actuator to create bioLogic Second Skin, a garment that reacts to the wearer’s sweat opening and closing, “the bacteria expand and contract in the presence of moisture, like nano-engines”.[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/142208383[/vimeo]“On a daily basis we use motors to make things move, responsive and interactive, but how can we learn from nature to build sustainable and smart systems?”. This question drives Yao’s research “Transform Materiality” to explore how to use nature energy stimula to transform material and make them behave smartly.
Everything can be scientifically designed
“Everything, including aesthetic, can be scientifically designed”. The synthetic bio-skin fabric reacts to body heat and sweat, causing flaps around heat zones to open, enabling sweat to evaporate and cool down the body through an organic material flux. Based on the natural phenomenon of hygromorphic transformation, we introduce a specific type of living cells as nanoactuators that react to body temperature and humidity change. This process creates a new ecology between the cloth and the human body, the cloth becomes part of the human ecosystem”.[caption id="attachment_76016" align="aligncenter" width="1080"]Lining Yao Second Skin bioLogic Second Skin.[/caption]Her latest bio-design principles application is related to food. “We called it Transformative Appetite, we wanted to program food to interact in smart ways”. Together with her colleagues at MIT, Yao designed a futuristic pasta made of a 2D printed edible natural material that turns into a designed 3D shape when dunked into boiling water. Again, a natural element, in this case water, is used as stimulant to trigger the transformation process. “With our flat pasta we can save 67.3% of shipping and packaging space and reduce the costs. This is very important, that’s why Ikea makes its flat furniture and then bother us to assemble them”.
How can we learn from nature to build sustainable and smart systems?
Yao’s programmable pasta is made of gelatine, cellulose and starch. Gelatine naturally expands when absorbing water, giving the researchers a way to manipulate the food. In order to achieve controllable bending behavior, the team introduced ethyl cellulose strips as both shape constraints and water barriers on top of the film.[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/199408741[/vimeo]“Food is very interesting because it’s a bridge between people form all over the world and with a different education, it’s a universal topic that makes us designers able to contribute to people’s daily life. That’s why we picked food as our context to explore programmable materials”.[caption id="attachment_76013" align="aligncenter" width="779"]Transformative Appetite Lining Yao Transformative Appetite Pasta.[/caption]Yao’s work offers a vision of a future upstream form the more popular digitized alternatives. “We manipulate materials not to artificially replicate them, but to use them right after they have been adapted. We create changeable, malleable and controllable objects that are totally natural. The application of these properties in our living spaces could save a lot of energy. We could develop a world where humans won’t need to learn how to use interfaces anymore, because the interfaces will automatically respond to people and environments”. A world that is technological, but also natural at the same time.Featured image: Meet The Media Guru [post_title] => Interview: Lining Yao, Interaction Designer and Maker of Novel Materials [post_excerpt] => We recently interviewed Lining Yao, Chinese interaction designer who uses organic materials as a technology that brings us back to nature. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => interview-lining-yao [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-01-25 10:02:49 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-01-25 09:02:49 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=75776/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 73867 [post_author] => 1324 [post_date] => 2017-05-02 10:08:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-02 08:08:30 [post_content] => Each yeah about 8.8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean. We don’t have 450 years to wait for a plastic bottle to degrade by itself, but nature always finds a way! A recently discovered plastic eating worm could be responsible for taking care of our massive plastic waste.Plastic eating microbes have been discovered before. But microbes are relatively slow in digesting and they have trouble breaking down the more transparent plastics with tough structure. This wax worm, usually used for fishing, is 1.400 times faster at devouring plastics, even the notoriously hard to break - polyethylene.Scientists believe it’s the enzymes in the worms silva or gut that give the worms the power to attack the chemical bounds of plastic. “It’s extremely, extremely exciting because breaking down plastic has proved so challenging” said Paolo Bombelli from Cambridge University. “If a single enzyme is responsible for this chemical process, its reproduction on a large scale using biotechnological methods should be achievable”.Currently the researchers are looking for ways to embed that enzyme into a liquid that could be sprayed directly on garbage landfills. Or to modify the enzymes into sea plants, as an organic way to start a non-stoping process to clean the ocean.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqzzywrEtjs[/youtube]Source: The Telegraph. Image: Wired [post_title] => Plastic-Eating Worm Can Help Ease Pollution [post_excerpt] => A recently discovered plastic eating worm could be used to safely digest our massive plastic waste. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wax-worm-eats-plastic [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-02 10:08:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-02 08:08:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=73867/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 71271 [post_author] => 1317 [post_date] => 2017-02-18 15:27:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-18 14:27:19 [post_content] => Did you ever think about how bacteria life could look like? Thanks to modern technologies, we are now able to research bacteria social behavior, which seems quite familiar. Scientists found out that bacteria use a universal language that helps to invite foreign workers to help build complex multicultural cities in order to inhabit the planet together.Their motto is "strong in solidarity". As one single bacterium is quite helpless and wouldn't be able to survive for long, a large group of bacteria is capable of rather complex and more sustainable actions.The building site for a bacteria city consists of "biofilm". Growing the city works in a quite unexpected way. The biofilm expands itself in two hour circles, during which it grows and pauses and repeats. These breaks are crucial in the establishment of the site, as nourishment is just able to reach the cells living in the heart of the city, while the growing process is stopped. In this time the outer areas have to suffer in order to reinforce the inner part, a beneficial act to the whole community.Commonly known, bacteria structure their behavior through a network of chemicals called quorum sensing. Recently though, scientists noticed that bacteria use another language, a universal one, to connect via high distance and cross cultural. Surprisingly, it's a electric messaging system. Comparable to how neurons establish our thoughts. As soon as one bacterium opens its own channel, ions are able to stream through and trigger the nearby located channels to open likewise, creating a electrical pulse that carries on via the whole bacteria stem.Jacqueline Humphries from the University of California, San Diego, says: “Maybe they just send out these ads, get whom they can, and then work out how to live together". What this example once again proves is that it's all about communicating and working together, because that is what nature does best.source: The Atlantic. Image: HDWLP [post_title] => Bacteria Use Electronic Messaging [post_excerpt] => Bacteria use electronic messaging system to recruit new workers. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => bacteria-uses-electronic-messaging-system [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-20 12:44:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-20 11:44:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=71271/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 122061 [post_author] => 873 [post_date] => 2019-10-17 10:09:47 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-17 09:09:47 [post_content] =>

This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.

Kicking off this series is Valerie Daude, a recent MA graduate in Social Design from the Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE). She is interested in how gut bacteria play critical roles in maintaining our human health in many aspects, and aims to understand how biological organisms interact with their human host.

This research has led her to design the Microbial Self project, a series of interactive facial prosthetics that measure and visualize the diversity of microbial species inside our guts, hence give insides on our bodily and mental health condition.

According to the designer, "the masks act as body extensions that enable a dialogue between us and the microorganisms inside of us. Displaying your 'inside' in the middle of your face, hiding your identity and sharing it with your microorganisms."

Welcome to the Next Generation: Get to know Valerie Daude.

Where does your fascination for microbial design come from?

As a woman of 1,92m, standard organizations like ISO or DIN consider my size non-standard. As a result, the world that has been built does not fit my body size and makes me experience the negative aspects of industry standards every day.

This motivated me to research ergonomic theory, the process of normalization and standardization of the human body, and especially historic concepts of the normal or average.

I found that the first physical unit of measurement was the human body itself. The resulting anthropic units went beyond focusing on the body, and were used to define the dimensions of the world.

How did this insight inform your work?

While trying to define alternative units to measure the human body, I learned that our physical and mental health is highly influenced by trillions of microorganisms that live within, on and around us. 

The differences between bodies on a microscopic level have a much bigger impact on humans’ overall wellbeing, more than differences in size and dimension. This insight made me change my focus from defining a body through its anthropometric measurements to interpreting the body in a much smaller and much more diverse unit — I started to investigate the microorganisms inside the body. 

Tell us a bit more about these microorganisms

Only 43% of each human body's total cell amount is human. The remaining 57% are microorganisms, like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Their population and genetic material are referred to as the human microbiome.

Bacteria far outnumber other microbes, and most species are found in the gut. Their diversity is essential for many aspects of our physical and mental well being. Between 400 and up to 1000 different bacteria species live in a healthy gut. The more different species you have, the better it is for your body.

They help us to digest certain food, synthesize vitamins, balance our immune system, and through the gut-brain axis, they influence our cognitive functions, mood, and even our behavior.

Each human body has its own unique set of microbes that constantly change over a lifetime. Diet, exercise, hygiene, medication and many other influences from our environment determine the composition of our microbes.

We constantly influence our microbial bodies without being aware of the impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.

And your project aims to visualize this?

Yes, I am working on methods to measure, visualize and display the diversity of our gut bacteria. Therefore I developed the concept of Microbial Masks, which have an integrated breath test that analyzes the diversity of gut bacteria through chemicals in your breath.

With every breath, the mask translates the results into a readable color code that is displayed on the mask.

Who are the masks for?

First and foremost, it's an ongoing design research project. At this stage, the project aims to explore through speculation how relationships between humans, as well as between humans and microbes, will be affected through advances in microbiome research.

To date, the relationship between humans and microorganisms has largely been biased. Microorganisms, especially bacteria, are primarily associated with diseases, contamination, and death.

Changes in present-day society such as diets with increased sugar, salt, and saturated fat, insufficient exercise, overuse of antibiotics, disinfectants, and pesticides cause a microbial imbalance in our environments and our bodies.

This contributes to an increase in obesity, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, depression, and mental health concerns. We need a paradigm shift, from thinking about microbes as enemies that have to be eliminated and destroyed, to thinking about achieving a healthy microbiotic environment within and around us. 

Where could you see the masks first introduced?

In a later stage of the project, the breath test technology could be implemented into wearable healthcare devices.

Nowadays, patients have little power in most healthcare systems and are depending on the decisions of healthcare professionals. Through self-tracking devices, individuals can get involved in the management of their microbial balance within the gut, and by extension, their overall health.

Would you wear this yourself?

I would wear and present the Microbial Masks on public events, symposiums, or exhibitions and invite others to test them. The main purpose of them is to open up conversations about the future application of microbiome research, data security, and to challenge the relationship between humans and microorganisms.

This phase of the project is not about introducing the design or technology to the market. Rather, the purpose is to gather people around these speculative objects as a way of maintaining interdisciplinary debate and creating new perspectives on scientific research.

The Microbial Masks are physical, haptic and form interactive conversation pieces that challenge the senses and imagination, triggering the exchange of insights between different professions, from artists to scientists, to learn from each other’s perspectives.

On a scale from 1-10, how speculative is the project?

I see this project as a near-future scenario in which healthcare becomes much more personal, political and expressive. In general, I would rate it a 7.

There are some parts, like the breath test, which is still a concept. But there are already diagnostic tools, like the hydrogen breath test, that can measure bacterial growth in your digestive tract through chemicals in your breath.

Also, the application of this technology in a mask can not be ruled out. In China, it is already very common to wear masks in public for health reasons. Although it is much more likely that many would prefer to keep the information gathered by the Microbial Mask private. 

Apart from that, the potential of microbiome research in healthcare is real. More and more at-home gut bacteria testing kits appear on the market. They all claim to help improve health.

Although the tests are questionable, in terms of their reliability, the market is growing rapidly. I took this extremely impersonal and quite slow procedure and transformed it into a more sensual and faster method: a breath test.

The microbiome holds the ability to influence our body, identity, health. Masks aside, one may argue that designing your microbiome is a form of biohacking, would you agree? Why?

Yes, definitely. Biohacking doesn't have to be related to micro-dosing, LSD or implanting chips. It's also about the controlled enhancement of your physical and cognitive performance, through the use of technology and biology.

There is constant interaction between microorganisms and hosts, autonomous processes of unconscious exchange that can enhance or decrease the host's performance. Humans are influencing their gut microbiome through everything they eat, inhale, absorb, digest and synthesize. Presumed that this influence may be conscious, guided, and goal-oriented, it can be interpreted as biohacking. Thereby the goal is to enhance the host’s overall health, cognitive function, and performance achieved through a balanced and diverse gut microbiome.

Why should we share this data?

Our body produces measurable data at every moment, and we could use this data to improve care and find new treatments for disease. Due to emerging molecular technologies, scientific knowledge and advances in human microbiome research are booming. This will inevitably bring striking changes in  understanding ourselves, normalcy, health, and illness, and consequently transform medical care, plus personal and public health.

The enormous amount of data we could generate by monitoring all those autonomous microorganism processes in our gut, with every single breath, holds exciting potential for researchers and doctors - on the condition that the collected data remains anonymous and is protected to prevent its misuse. This data could improve healthcare and find new treatments for disease.

Understanding how microorganisms interact with their human hosts could explain different aspects of many complex diseases. We can gain better insight into metabolic diseases, diabetes and Alzheimers, immunological and autoimmune diseases, or even behavioral changes, like depression and anxiety, or autism and ADHD in children.

What’s the dream scenario for this design? What’s the nightmare?

The nightmare would be if microbial data would be used to exclude, discriminate, or disadvantage people. It could be extremely problematic if insurance companies or employers want to have access to this kind of data. Furthermore, choice of friends and partners may be influenced, since body contact significantly influences the microbial communities on a human's skin.

The dream scenario is to use microbiome research to improve healthcare and to create a collective understanding of the importance of microbes for ourselves and our environment.

I designed the three Microbial Masks based on bodily systems which are highly influenced by our microbes. The digestive system, the respiratory system, and the immune system. In the future, wearables in healthcare may be defined as an extension of the body, technology that merges with your body like an external organ. I am not a big fan of the sleek industrial design of standard wearables in healthcare today. The aesthetic translations of my research are also visual proposals for a more expressive and sensual design of future wearable healthcare products.

We live in a microbial world, without being aware of it. We might need to conceptualize the human body as an ecosystem and the human being as a superorganism, rather than a single individual.

Catch Microbial Self as part of the Dutch Design Week at the DAE Graduation Show 2019. From 19 — 27 October at Melkfabriek, Eindhoven.

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