Shannon Fischer is a freelance science writer in Boston, Massachusetts. She once had ideas about becoming a scientist herself, but ultimately jumped ship for science writing and never looked back. She now writes about everything from debates over the true nature of human emotion, the life and times of rising mixed martial artists, 3D bioprinting, and the difficulties of putting squirrels on birth control. In addition to Pulse, her work has appeared in various places, including Pacific Standard online, the Smithsonian Zoogoer, and Boston magazine.
Floating in a Petri dish, they look like tiny tapioca pearls in peach broth, a couple dozen in number and none much larger than the tip of a ballpoint pen. But under a microscope, dense, lumpy bodies come into focus, outlined by wispy coronas.
In 1991, a group of Italian researchers announced that they had isolated a new antibiotic from a chemical soup brewed with a soil-dwelling bacteria called Planobispora rosea. The drug was a type of thiopeptide, effective against grampositive bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, P. acnes, and C. difficile but uncooperative in terms of being harnessed for human medicines.
In 2011, the California-based company Genomatica reported its success in rigging Escherichia coli microbes to convert sugar into the industrial chemical 1,4-butanediol (BDO). It was a feat of metabolic engineering: BDO is a key ingredient in the production of goods like running shoes, solvents, and spandex.
In a blog post in January 2014, Google unveiled one of its latest forays into the health market—a smart contact lens for diabetics. It was sleek and appealingly futuristic, with a minute microchip equipped with tiny glucose sensors, embedded in a soft, biocompatible lens material.
About an hour west of Boston, Tufts University’s bucolic North Grafton hospital is full of back surgery patients today. They lie quietly on their sides, lines of stitches along their spines. “Slipped discs,” explains oncologist Kristine Burgess, as she walks through an intensive care unit
On a video screen, against a black backdrop, 15 spherical blue-green cells vibrate with a quiet energy. Slowly at first, then faster, they begin to roil and roll. Within the confines of their round membrane cases, they divide, becoming two, three, four cells, then those,
When she was 37, Clare developed a tremor down her left side. At 39, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and put on a series of medications. These helped for a time, but the effect didn’t last
In 1997, a science fiction film titled Gattaca premiered in U.S. theaters, depicting a society sometime in the not-so-distant future
What does intelligence mean for a hospital where the main problems aren’t incompatible computer systems and data overload but a lack of computers, of trained personnel, or even of basic resources?
Femi Olugbile has had a close view of Nigeria’s health care progress over the years. Despite decades of economic booms and busts and sociopolitical turmoil