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Oron Catts’s most recent exhibition, Biomess, features a unique work of art. It’s a deconstructed incubator, inside of which live hybridoma cells — cells from distinct organisms that have been fused together by Catts and his longtime collaborator Ionat Zurr. The cells come from two different mice and, once fused, can only exist within the confines of the incubator. Outside, they will die. If Catts’s exhibit is reminiscent of Frankenstein, it’s no accident: Biomess was timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel. It is also only the latest instance in which Catts, an artist and researcher who works predominantly with tissue engineering as his medium, has forced uncomfortable questions about biology, technology, and the intersection of the two. I spoke with Catts about the challenges of tissue engineering, the false promises of ventures looking to commercialize lab-grown meat and leather, and how so much of this has to do with Silicon Valley’s unwillingness to come to terms with mortality. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

More… “In Vitro Impossible”

Arvind Dilawar is an independent journalist. His articles, interviews, and essays on everything from the spacesuits of the future to love in the time of visas have appeared in NewsweekThe GuardianVice, and elsewhere

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I imagine that one of the final disappointments of Michael Crichton’s too-short life was the news that Japanese scientists had cloned a mouse from cells frozen for 16 years. Where were they when the rest of us were spending close to $1 billion to see Crichton’s vision of biotechnology run amok? In the lab freezing mice, I suppose.

The ability to clone animals such as mice is not new — since the 1996 breakthrough of Dolly the sheep, everything from cats and dogs to pigs and horses have been cloned. But those relied on living cells. What makes the Japanese scientists’ research noteworthy is its ability to replicate using genetic material extracted from cells damaged in freezing.

You might wonder who wants to clone thawed common mice. Nobody, it turns out. The scientists suggested that among the real… More…

 

They were there in the caves of the Neolithic Stone Age. They were there in the temples of ancient Egypt and Rome. They were there at the coronation of King Henry IV. They were there on Napoleon’s battlefields. And they were there, in my very own house, just last month.

Lowly, unlovely lice, that is. Despite their unwavering lineage, I was shocked to find them crawling on my own children. I knew that lice still existed, of course, but I had always assumed that they belonged in someone else’s house. So despite receiving a letter from school alerting parents of an infestation, it took three days of watching my son furiously scratching his neck before I realized that he might not have mosquito bites.

The moment I checked, there they were: little wingless, bloodsucking insects skittering over his… More…