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What you're looking at at the picture above looks like the sort of crap you'd dig out from a clogged sink or pipe after not cleaning it for like, ever. But what you're looking at is actually, a living sponge. It's alive.

The deformed ball is a mass of artificial cells, created from genetically engineered marine sponges, and the cells have a plastic nucleus coated by a bubble of oil that acts as a cell membrane. There's a piece of DNA made from a random combination of silica forming proteins that has been randomly mutated inside it.

The artificial cells produce different substances, depending the kind of original material used. It could create new structures of silicon dioxide, which can be used in future chips, or other new types of fiberglass and even magnetic nanoparticles.

Scientists are using genetics because they want to use the rules of evolution to obtain completely new materials that would be perfect for current and future, unknown technologies. Scientists at the University of California says that "this approach will begin to allow the same DNA-based evolutionary processes that have created seashells and skeletons to be harnessed to advance human technologies."

[Ars Technica]