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TWIST

TWIST bioscience is a company that uses a 3D printer to print DNA. No it’s not science fiction. If you can design a genetic code, you can essentially print it and install it into a living organism. 

They use a silicon-based, high-precision DNA synthesis platform and offer both clonal genes (synthesised DNA cloned into plasma vectors), and gene fragments (linear synthesised DNA sequences for direct cloning or larger gene assembly). 

It’s crazy to think that it’s already been 5 years since American biotechnologist, Craig Venter, designed and synthesised a minimal bacterial genome. This bacteria, Mycoplasma mycoides, was built using an engineering model of design, built, test. He used a computer aided design of the genome to synthesise the genome from four bottles of chemicals constructing DNA (as per the A, G, C, T nucleotides), and “booted up” in a bacterial cell, making it the first cell to be controlled completely by a synthetic genome. It consists of 1.08 million base pairs, making up 473 genes and even though it’s a minimal bacterium and was built from scratch, ⅓ of its genome (149 genes) still have unknown functions. 

As of now TWIST prints simple DNA sequences, but combined with the exponential way technology is advancing and people’s wild imagination, its crazy to think what these DNA 3D printers could create in 10-20 years. Perhaps a cyborg (part biological, part digital) is not as far in the future as people think, there’s certainly simple cyborgs which are part silicon based and part carbon based that have already been. 

However, as unbelievably exciting and revolutionary as this technology is, it does open up a Pandora’s box of ethical, social and political concerns.