Spring novelties: Minimal auxiliary for healthy hair and skin

spring-novelties

29|03|2015

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will ensure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” Rachel Carson

Spring is here! It’s been a month since my last blog entry because I was traveling a lot and I trying to reduce my internet activity to a therapeutic minimum. Every once in a while I find it quite relaxing. I’ve seen lovely little vintage stores in London, done a little punting in sunny Cambridge and seen the incredible Prague skyline you see when you walk up the castle at night. But going on a journey with hand luggage only for weeks can be a challenge and requires smart packing skills. My favorite helpers are the milky-translucent Muji E.V.A. Zip Pockets (about 2 EUR), which are actually file houlders, but I use them as minimalistic toiletry storage (and every airport seemed to accept it as translucent liquids bag) and the little dust bags COS hands out for free when you shop their accessory for storing socks and underwear. Out of the few things this was with me: The refreshing Oliveda Face Serum, Aesop ‘Shine’ hair serum and the translucent scrunchies by Invisibobble.

Some of you who follow me on Instagram or Facebook already know I’ve been in a developing process of a face serum (and oil… psshh) for a while now and still testing out all kinds of ingredients from the ocean and modern botany. Anyways every now and then I still test out other brands, too. With a sleek and minimal packaging Oliveda’s Anti Aging Face Serum (about 50 EUR) caught my attention, which was in my ‘Douglas Box of Beauty’, the german equivalent of Birchbox. It is full of potent antioxidants and has a lovely, herby (spring!) smell. The most interesting ingredient is Olea europea (olive) leaf cell extract which contains numerous phenolics and antioxidants like e.g. Oleuropein. The serum has a green, gooey gel texture and so far it leaves my face moist and plump. If you like Heliotrope-like, exotic flower fragrance as much as I do and still need a hair serum for shiny hair Aesop ‘Shine’ will be your go-to product. After I washed and towel-dried my hair I add 2-3 drops and massage it in my lengths. It adds shine to my naturally curly hair and a little definition when I leave it to air-dry. In spring I like to wear my hair natural and slightly unruly which is why I am very happy I discovered Invisibobble scrunchies which are not only ‘invisible’ but add volume to my ponytail, too. I think spring and the new semester can come with these kind of time-saving essentials! I’d rather have a nice espresso than spend 5 more minutes in front of the mirror. Best, Ea
 

today: white spring

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Fulvic Acid

fulvicacid

11|02|2015
black waters:
blk
black mp
Trace

fuvlic acid skincare:
fulom
pür
belif

supplements:
pürblack
trace minerals
avantri

“Man and man’s earth are unexhausted and undiscovered. Wake and listen! Verily, the earth shall yet be a source of recovery. Remain faithful to the earth, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

The trend of  holistic ingredients in sleek, minimalistic packaging is quite imminent. I already perceived this tendency when I clicked through moonjuice’s online store (which I mentioned the post before) and various inspirational minimalism blogs. A prime example is black bottled water. The first time I encountered a picture of a bottle of BLK I really thought someone photoshopped it but in fact for about 4USD you can find it on Amazon. Why is the water black and what is its benefit?

The answer lies in the black humic minerals which are added to the water. Predominantly mentioned as the magic ingredient is Fulvic acid. BLK claims it ‘alkalizes’ the body and supplies it with electrolytes (click). Fulvic acid, next to humic acid, is one of two kinds of natural acidic organic polymers. Until now it cannot be easily synthesized and mostly it is being extracted out of organic matter like humus found in soil, sediment, or aquatic environments. Due to its chemical composition it has the ability to form strong complexes with metals like copper, iron, and aluminium (1, 2, 3) and is therefore a precursor of organic water pollutants that are considered harmful (see 1, 2, 3). Fulvic acid is also present in ancient alternative medicine: Sometimes called Shilajit, Mumijo, Mumie, black-tar or vegetable asphalt (I am sure there are many more names) is a black solid and it is considered to be a potent fortifier and adaptogen in e.g. ayurveda and traditional chinese medicine. Traditionally there are a mulititude of topical uses of Shilajit and it’s supposed to cure infected wounds and ease inflammations. I found four useful reviews supporting the ascribed effect (1, 2, 3, 4). Ingested it is said to be neuroprotective, cognition-enhancing and preventing Alzheimer’s disease (1, 2, 3, 4) and helpful against gastric infections (1, 2, 3, 4) and chronic fatigue syndrome (1, 2). If you think BLK is your only option of black water I listed some alternative brands on the right bar. There is still a lot of research required to figure how Fulvic Acid truly contributes to the human health and most studies you can find are very preliminary. Anyways, I’ll order a bottle just out of curiosity, Ea

 

today: Cerium, Yttrium und Neodymium

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Elysium, the Longevity Pill

elysium

05|02|2015
picture:
Elysium Health

similar supplements:
Anima Mundi
Beauty Dust
Perricone

“There’s no such thing as ageing gracefully. I don’t meet people who want to get Alzheimer’s disease, or who want to get cancer or arthritis or any of the other things that afflict the elderly. Ageing is bad for you, and we better just actually accept that.” Aubrey de Grey

Oh, how nice it would be to live a little longer with the same pace and inquisitiveness but a youthful body! If you followed the past entries of my blog you know I am very curious about life extension research. Many care about their appearance and rather invest in anti-aging skincare than in nurturing supplements, but I start to get more and more the feeling that 2015 is going to be the year really where promising ‘longevity products’ will hit the shelves big time, either from botanical apothecaries (for holistic minds amongst us) or creations from a lab. Last week I came across two new ones: Into the Gloss just posted a link about (already sold out) Beauty Dust, a botanical apothecary version of an Anti-Aging Supplement (link) and MIT Technology Review‘s blog shared a link of Elysium, the longevity pill for 50USD/month (link). I leave it to your fantasy if Beauty dust with e.g. finely grounded pearls, Lo Han Guo and Rehmannia does anything supporting for your beauty and vitality (though I like the cute product design) but Elysium is probably one of the most promising longevity supplements so far. According to MIT Technology review Elysium comes with the nice backup of five Nobel Prize winners advising it including neuroscientist Eric Kandel, biologist Thomas Südhof, origin-of-life theorist Jack Szostak, and the 2013 laureate in chemistry Martin Karplus (read here).

But what is in the blue soft capsule that carries the name of the greek perception of the afterlife? 62-year old MIT biologist Leonard Guarente brought the Silicon Valley based startup to life and he is “convinced that the process of aging can be slowed by tweaking the body’s metabolism”. According to Guarente it’s not easy to prove the longevity effect on certain animal-test approved supplements in humans, too. So he takes the “unconventional route of packaging cutting-edge lab research as so-called nutraceuticals, which don’t require clinical trials or approval by the FDA” (read all here). Elysium’s only supplement so far is called ‘Base’ and has a supposedly potent mix of natural substances that can be found in blueberries (pterostilbene) and milk (nicotinamide riboside). They explain it as following: “it targets two critical components of human metabolism: the coenzyme nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) and a class of proteins known as sirtuins. It targets these specific biological components through a novel NAD+ precursor, known as nicotinamide riboside (NR), and a sirtuin activating polyphenol by the name of pterostilbene.”(read on here). Well, it is not very clear if Elysium will give you a little additional years, but you are for sure funding a promising life-extension research facility. Elysium is going to sales next week and if you want to be the first one to crowdfund a longevity pill you can do it here. Best and definitely packing for a bottle of Elysium’s Basis, Ea Birkkam

today: a tribute to the lab coat

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Rodin Olio Lusso Crema

19|01|2015
picture:
Smallflower

shop rodin:
olio lusso
lip balm
perfume

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” William Shakespeare

When it comes to Rodin’s Olio Lusso I am a little envious one woman makes million over million girls happy with such simplistic products. In 2007 Linda Rodin, ex-model of the 70s and 80s, fashion stylist and now founder of Rodin must have felt unsatisfied with common anti-aging skincare (and the delay of visible change, read here) so she created Olio Lusso Face Oil which soon found its hype all over magazines and the internet. Many products joined the line, like the marvellous Hand and Body Cream you see above and 2014 big Estee Lauder acquired Olio Lusso which prooves of its success. One thing I have to add is, if you don’t want to splurge your money on the costly Face Oil (170 USD) and Crema (84 USD), the simple ingredients list gives you a good start to follow the recipe and do your own version of it! The face oil has Sunflower Oil as a base, which you can find in good qualities in organic food stores and for the rest of the essential oils I love Eden Botanticals (click here) or french Huiles et Sens (click here). For the Hand and Body Creme you need a good Shea Whip as a base (good recipe here) which you infuse with natural oils, sounds hard to DIY but it’s as easy as frothing your Latte Macchiato milk at home. I have only love for the inspiring, simplistic product design and basic, natural ingredients list, Ea

today: relentlessly white beach look

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Interview with Bangkok based brand: From K

fromk1

fromk2

fromk3

13|01|2015

“Women think of all colors except the absence of color. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” Coco Chanel

As a millenial, living in the age of internet makes it very easy to discover likeminded creatives all over the world. One minute you see a prototype fashion piece of a designer newcomer you like, the other you own it. This is what happened to me when I saw From K on Instagram (follow her here) and asked her if I could buy it. Her black and white modern age uniform-like set and especially the thick fabric, oversize white dress, which reminds me of a closed version of a lab coat, intrigued me. You find various other minimalistic garments like mini glass-bulb earrings and black neoprene totes which come super affordable (about 15-20 dollars) and futuristic. Above you see me wearing my new favorite fashion pieces! I had the luck to investigate Kwang’s fashion philosophy in this little interview:

How did you get into fashion and when did you start designing your own clothes?

K: When I was a little girl I always fought with my friends over which cartoon channel we will go for but one day we hit an unfamiliar number on the controller and discovered Fashion TV. So cartoon channels were quickly out of my sight. Besides my grandma was a dressmaker. I loved to learn sewing with her to make my Barbie doll clothes. This was my first contact with fashion. After I graduated I started to work as a stylist’s assistant, but I felt like it wouldn’t suit me. Somehow out of nowhere, from a girl who loves to dress up, I started to officialy make it.

Your fashion is predominantly black and white. What is the inspiration behind your collection and why do you choose to work with mostly non-spectral colors?

K: I have a high-contrast personality just like the colors black and white. The concept of my collection is that I want to make stuff that just fits everyone right. And when it comes to clothing I like simple but not basic. So it is ‘FROM K TO ALL’ where K stands for me (Kwang).

Which are your favorite fashion designers or past designer collections that inspire you the most with your own collection?

K: I’m just in love with everything from KTZ (Kokon To Zai) and a designer I just found and like is Hyein Seo. Actually there are a lot more but they are the first two who came to my mind.

Do you think sartorial minimalism is an important medium to lead people to true minimalism as a lifestyle?

K: Appearance may not prove of a certain lifestyle, though the easiest way for people to express themselves is through clothing. So yes, it is an important medium to find their true minimalistic identity. I believe less enough and not more enough is the true balance and perfection of minimalism.

If you want to take a look at K’s shop and website visit it here. Thank you, Kwang for your time for the interview and your beautiful work!

Dressed in From K and loving it, Ea Birkkam

today: high-contrast outfits with KTZ

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Perfluorodecalin

pfd

 

26|12|2014

“I live in my house as I live inside my skin: I know more beautiful, more ample, more sturdy and more picturesque skins: but it would seem to me unnatural to exchange them for mine.” Primo Levi

Sometimes you meet an interesting chemical compound in an entirely different background than you might expect. This happened to me when I encountered the beautifully symmetric molecule Perfluorodecalin for the second time in my life. I’ve heard of it for the first time in science fiction movies like The Abyss and in oldschool anime Neon Evangelion Genesis where they showed mammals, deep-sea divers and anime protagonists in underwater respiratory-systems (watch here and here). I must admit back then I thought they made the liquid-breathing thing entirely up but as I found out it actually has its roots in real science! After the movies I didn’t hear from PFD and other Perfluorochemical molecules enough to take notice of it and forgot about it. Until last week, which was the time I decided to check out new makeup and skincare like Sunday Riley’s Effortless Tinted Primer and La Prairie’s Cellular Power Charge Night(499 USD!). So there it was, right in their ingredients: Perfluorodecalin (or’Rejuvenox’). What was it doing there?

Perfluorodecalin is a derivative of decalin in which all of the hydrogen atoms are replaced by fluorine atoms. Your alert bell might ring when you hear poisonous fluorine but in Perfluorodecalin it is both chemically and biologically inert (not reacting). It is stable up to 400°C and finds its use in nanomedicinal applications as a carrier for molecular imaging agents and drugs (check 1, 2, 3). According to Sunday Riley it keeps the Effortless primer “drenched in oxygen.” As a magic ingredient that sits in between the silicone base of the primer and can dissolve and deliver oxygen to the skin. There are alot of claims like anti-aging, acne-reducing effects on side of Sunday Riley and La Prairie takes it even further with pretensions from Dr. Daniel Stangl, lead researcher of La Prairie. He stated in an interview with Vogue Germany that the barrier function of skin is lower during the nighttime and the skin is more permeable to active ingredients then. ‘Cellular Power Charge Night’ supposedly uses this knowledge to implant Retinol for the formation of collagen and elastin fibers aswell as Perfluorodecalin, the ‘oxygen booster’ (read here). If you’re serious about some promising evidence or wary words about PFD check out following sites (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). I couldn’t find anything satisfying about the retinol-enhancing properties and independent, clinical trials about claims like this. Only studies which vaguely implify wound healing properties. Anyways, you can be sure everytime words like ‘oxygenize’, ‘oxygen-loaded’ and ‘oxygen’ in general pop up on the product it is very likely to contain fluorocarbon. To blast pure oxygen alone in your skincare product with no reasonable ‘nanocarrier’ like PFD would be witless, if you heard about ROS (reactive oxygen species) which might emerge, you would know it could support the damage of our mitochondria and therefore interrupt a healthy cell function. If I missed something important, got something wrong (I hope I didn’t) or if you found studies worthy of mention feel free to put them in the comment section! Packing up for a trip to Amsterdam, Ea Birkkam
 

today: the skiing minimalist

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gift ideas for minimalists

XMAS1

XMAS6

XMAS3

XMAS4

XMAS2

 

17|12|2014

“Essentially only one thing in life interests us: our psychical constitution, the mechanism of which was and is wrapped in darkness. All human resources, art, religion, literature, philosophy and historical sciences, all of them join in bringing light in this darkness.” Ivan Petrovich Pavlov

It’s this time of the year again… when weather is colder (at least in Germany) and the days are shorter and darker. Maybe it’s the reason (though I am not a big fan of religion) I get a cozy, warm feeling around christmas time. Born into a roman catholic familiy I happen to enjoy thinking about special gifts, get-togethers and the delicious food. Our typical christmas eve is full of classical music like Corelli’s christmas concerto or Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and my christmas menu. Our eve ends with the exchange of christmas gifts and that’s the moment of truth which reveals if you really guessed the desires of the gifted person right. If I don’t know it otherwise my presents turn out to be quite simplistic. Above is my list of personal favorites for 2014! Preferably wrapped in this or this or an old natgeo. Merry christmas everybody, Ea

 

today: simplistic outfits with winter boots

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the science of aging part 1: why we age

Aging

 

9|12|2014
picture:
flame painter

interesting books:
1
2
3

“Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.” Rainer Maria Rilke

It doesn’t matter if you are a biochemistry student, hollywood starlet or just an open mind: the question of why we aren’t immortal unites us. Let’s all thank the so-called ‘biogerontologists’, scientists who diligently search for an answer to this question. When you’re young you may think it is way too early to think about age at all but at the latest when you reach the twenty mark you are very likely to start to get conscious on this topic. Because that’s when the cosmetic industry reminds us that our collagen production decreases and we need to preserve what’s still left with sunscreen, innovative skincare etc. The average population thinks about starting a family and some might experience physiological changes which make them feel old. I spent the last years trying to understand what we already know about aging but it’s not very easy. Cell Biology is still a striving and exciting branch of science and you can be sure by the end of this sentence a few smart heads have already found another major piece of the puzzle, important enough to be mentioned here. To clear things up: I am not ‘anti’ aging in particular but I’ve always been a fan of preserving what you have and taking good care of it. At the end of this series on ‘aging’ I will focus on protective skin active ingredients, which are scientifically proven to keep skin young. Let’s start with the first theories made by early biogerontologists on why we age:

Rate-of-living theory
There are various popular theories about why we age and most of them add together to one explanation. 1908 Max Rubners introduced his “rate-of-living theory” after he observed the body temperature in relation to their body size of mammals and birds. He proposed that a slow metabolism increases an animal’s longevity and observation was that larger animals outlived smaller animals, and the metabolic rates of larger animals were slower per rate. Twenty years later Raymond Pearl expanded his theory with experiments on fruit flies (drosophila) which have shown that a decrease of environmental temperature go along with a increase of lifespan. But there was still one problem: it was not applicable between all species (source 1, 2, 3).

Mitochondrial theory of aging
1958 Denham Harman, a research chemist of Shell’s reaction kinetics department who was studying free radical reactions in petroleum products, completed a part of Pearl’s theory. He developed the idea of radical induced damages like replication- and translator errors, aswell as radiation and toxic substance induced changes can induce the senescence or death of a cell. All his studies showed that antioxidants increased the average lifespan, none really showed an increase in maximum life span. Decades of research later his conclusion was that mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells, were not affected by antioxidants that came from the outside. So he deduced that mitochondria determine lifespan. A new theory was born: the “mitochondrial theory of aging” (source 1, 2)

Telomere theory of aging and Hayflick limit
At the end of last century another theory popped up: the telomere theory of aging. Researchers found out that the cause for the shortening of chromosomal ends (telomers) in proliferated cells was the disability of dna-strings ends, for mechanical reasons, to be fully doubled after each replication round. To prevent genetic damage, cells developed telomers, repetitive nucleotid sequences. According to Leonard Hayflick, with each round of dna replication and increasing age they shorten until finally the prior protected part of the dna is damaged, which weakens the stability of chromosomes altogether and leads to apoptose- the cell death. Basically it means you can tell by the length of the telomere how often the cell can replicate until it suddenly stops. Hayflick demonstrated normal human cells in vitro divide about 52 times until they automatically enter the senescence phase. Telomere shortening happens mainly with proliferating cells, while for example stemcells and cancerous cells produce an enzyme called telomerase which prolongs the telormers again after a replication round (Source 1, 2, 3, 4).

Negligible Senescence in nature and SENS
In the last years several genes and their proteins entered the limelight of gerontology; lots of them regulate stress resistance and repair of dna-damage, with transport functions or antioxidant effects. It appeared to be that aging is a programmed species- and cell specific process. Imagine a car that wears out over time. It isn’t very different. So if you think like there’s nothing you could do about the aging process you should look how Aubrey de Grey feels about it. Some might think the Cambridge researcher with a tremendous beard is more of a dreamer than a scientist but I like his fervor. He basically breaks down the types of Aging Damage to 7 and there is a TED video that shows his enthusiasm quite well and is actually very funny (see here). Read more here 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

I really hope this small biogerontology journey didn’t confuse you too much and made you as excited about this topic as I am. It’s crazy how many researchers work together to encipher the mystery of aging and are looking for the molecular fountain of youth. Consider this a humble overview! Next week we’ll see some examples of the ‘immortality gene’ in animals like the hydra. Best, Ea Birkkam

 

today: Eve from Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

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Minimalistic, kinetic jewelry: Verve Flow x The Silent White

3

4

sketch

 

23|11|2014
necklace:
verve flow


take a bath:
1
2
3

“Invention is the most important product of man’s creative brain. The ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of human nature to human needs.” Nikola Tesla

I am always happy when I find likeminded blogger and designer who share the same interest in fashion (or science) and Svetlana is that kind of person. Her interesting approach of making innovative jewelry with complex geometric shapes and special effects is really one of a kind. She has a variety of different projects going on (see here and here) but her kinetic jewelry from Ianua Art and Verve Flow is probably the most geometric. Together we discussed a new design for a necklace with a moving pendant that changes the pattern when moved. I have never seen something like this before and was already very excited to think about the design in black and white which resembles The Silent White.

Svetlana explained her principle of movement in her jewelry like this: “The construction is very simple: the inner (not fixed) element inside the ring is shifted by gravity. You can move it by moving your hand. There are two types of movements: one type is up and down (rectangle jewelry), the other is circular (round jewelry).” So cool! She perfectly realized my additional idea to put the pendant on a very lightweight leather band to make the necklace hang very straight from your collar. The moving pendant is made out of a 3×5,6cm epoxy lens to make it durable and shiny and the final leather band is made of soft white velour. My favorite part is the strong but subtle looking neodym magnete closure, so practical and minimalistic! I am very excited to now own something special like this. It fits my new favorite Alexander Wang for H&M sweater dress and rest of wardrobe perfectly. If you’re curious about the other minimalistic pieces, visit her store (here). Thank you Svetlana, I am very happy with this collaboration! Having early xmas, Ea

today: supercooled cloud droplets

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biochem poetry – how synthetic dna can make your words immortal

xenoflower

 

21|11|2014
picture:
flower
dna bases

favorite videos this week:
-anti-matter
-fluorine and caesium
-pheromones

“The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them” William Bragg

Have you ever thought about writing a message that can never be destroyed and lives on even after you are dead? Just recently I came across a very interesting way to make it possible and it might shed a different light on the whole GMO haterade: encoding a text on a synthetic DNA strand. It may sound very Sci-Fi but it’s not even a new approach and has a practical background: to keep synthetic genome apart from a natural one, scientists must use something like a “watermark” on their creations, similar to microchip watermarks they are inscriptions on unused portions (read more). To use this kind of procedure as a medium for your poem or something literal that is important to you excites my torn-between-science-and-art heart.

As far as my web research goes the first one who successfully encoded text parts into a strand of DNA was Eduardo Kac. Yes, that’s the same guy who commissioned a french lab for the creation of Alba, a GFP Bunny that glows in the dark. He used the first lines of the bible’s genesis in the synthetic DNA strand, implanted it into a microbe and stressed the microbe out with UVGI, a biotechnological disinfection method that uses UV light to kill (or stress) microorganisms. This procedure caused mutations in the text as the microbe reproduced and multiplied and, voilà, he has just offended religious conservatives off from his laboratory bench. I’m amused he used something so controversial in his work. There is a multitude of ironic or fun messages that can be implanted, like german-based specialist for plant reproduction Icon Genetics’ idea to make a little transgenic plant recite Virgil’s Georgics every time it reproduces. It says “Nec vero terrae ferre omnes omnia possunt” (“Neither can every soil bear every fruit”) which they must have thought fits just perfectly into sweet little mouse-ear cress. Pak Chung Wong, a computer scientist, had the idea to encode something less controversial than the bible into the genome of tough (cold, dehydration, vacuum, radiation and acid resistent) bacteria Deinoccocus radiodurans: the lyrics of the Disney soundtrack for 1964 World’s Fair called “It’s a Small World (After All)”, how cute is that? You can also make your bacteria do poem on its own, like canadian experimental artist Christian Bök‘s project The Xenotext (click). An article at macleans.com explains his approach “A short stanza enciphered into a strand of DNA and injected into an ‘unkillable’ bacterium, Bök’s poem is designed to trigger the micro-organism to create a corresponding protein that, when decoded, is a verse created by the organism. In other words, the harmless bacterium, Deinococcus radiodurans will be a poetic bug.” But as every intervention that reaches out into our most precious root of identity we must handle genetically modified organisms and especially bacteria/viruses with responsibility and professionalism. But the thought of having a meadow flower create a rap text that makes more sense than Kanye West Lyrics makes me grin for at least a week. Amused and up for festive silver garments, Ea

today: synthetic biology

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