Hacking Life

I’ve written a piece for Newsweek about how to program a cell. (The Newsweek International edition comes out this week; the US edition comes out next week.) I find the ongoing research exciting, but sometimes I wonder how much of its promise will become real. Programmable cells, for example, are an illustration of the exciting frontiers that can be explored with stem cells. It may be possible to wire the genetic circuits of a stem cell to make it grow into a particular sort of organ, produce a certain sort of hormone, etc. But it’s hard to see how any of that will come to pass if stem cell research withers on the vine. And when I look elsewhere in this week’s issue of Newsweek and see how we can’t even handle flu vaccines, my hope for medical progress in general starts to dim.

Hope springs eternal, though.