How Scientists Are Engineering Plastic-Eating Bacteria to Fight the Pollution Crisis

How Scientists Are Engineering Plastic-Eating Bacteria to Fight the Pollution Crisis

Scientists are turning to synthetic biology to engineer bacteria that can degrade plastic and turn it into higher-value materials.



[Ed. Note: This is the second episode in our Moonshot series, which will explore four cutting-edge scientific developments that stand to fundamentally transform our world.]

Kira Peikoff

Kira Peikoff was the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org from 2017 to 2021. As a journalist, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Nautilus, Popular Mechanics, The New York Academy of Sciences, and other outlets. She is also the author of four suspense novels that explore controversial issues arising from scientific innovation: Living Proof, No Time to Die, Die Again Tomorrow, and Mother Knows Best. Peikoff holds a B.A. in Journalism from New York University and an M.S. in Bioethics from Columbia University. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two young sons. Follow her on Twitter @KiraPeikoff.

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Podcast: Wellness chatbots and meditation pods with Deepak Chopra

Leaps.org talked with Deepak Chopra about new technologies he's developing for mental health with Jonathan Marcoschamer, CEO of OpenSeed, and others.

Hannah Cohen

Over the last few decades, perhaps no one has impacted healthy lifestyles more than Deepak Chopra, as he's helped bring meditation, yoga and other practices for well-being into the mainstream in ways that benefit the health of vast numbers of people every day.

His work has led many to accept new ways of thinking about alternative medicine, the power of mind over body, and the malleability of the aging process. Although Chopra's recommendations are questioned by some, his impact is such that it's been observed our culture no longer recognizes him as a human being but as a pervasive symbol of new-agey personal health and spiritual growth.

Last week, I had a chance to confirm that Chopra is, in fact, a human being – and deserving of his icon status – when I talked with him for the Leaps.org podcast. He relayed ideas that were wise and ancient, yet highly relevant to our world today, with the fluidity and ease of someone discussing the weather. Showing no signs of slowing down at age 76, he described his prolific work, including the publication of two books in the past year and a range of technologies he’s developing, including a meditation app, meditation pods for the workplace, and a chatbot for mental health called Piwi.

Take a listen and get inspired to do some meditation and deep thinking on the future of health. As Chopra told me, “If you don’t have time to meditate once per day, you probably need to meditate twice per day.”

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @fuchswriter.

A Tool for Disease Detection Is Right Under Our Noses

In March, researchers published a review that lists which organic chemicals match up with certain diseases and biomarkers in the skin, saliva and urine. It’s an important step in creating a robot nose that can reliably detect diseases.

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

The doctor will sniff you now? Well, not on his or her own, but with a device that functions like a superhuman nose. You’ll exhale into a breathalyzer, or a sensor will collect “scent data” from a quick pass over your urine or blood sample. Then, AI software combs through an olfactory database to find patterns in the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) you secreted that match those associated with thousands of VOC disease biomarkers that have been identified and cataloged.

No further biopsy, imaging test or procedures necessary for the diagnosis. According to some scientists, this is how diseases will be detected in the coming years.

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Eve Glicksman
Eve Glicksman is a freelance writer and editor in the Washington, DC, area following a long career in Philadelphia. She writes for the health and science section of The Washington Post along with a mix of stories for other media and associations on trends, culture, psychology, lifestyle, business and travel. Previously, she served as a managing editor for UnitedHealth Group and the Association for American Medical Colleges. To see more of her work, visit eveglicksman.com.