Featuring pink pineapples, synthetic ice cream, laser skin care, lots of tests, treatments, and of course, books.
Attention all nature lovers, foodies, design aficionados, futurists, self trackers, bionerds and anyone who cares about the future of health: It’s time again for our roundup of the cool bio products that caught our attention this year that might lend themselves to gifting for the holidays.
The simplest thing to do of course, especially for friends of yours who don’t yet understand your passion for the future of health and medicine and how technology is transforming our species, is to give them our book, Neo.Life: 25 Visions for the Future of Our Species. Winner of an award for design from the American Institute of Graphic Artists, the book features brilliant scientists like George Church and David Eagleman, longevity entrepreneur Kirstin Fortney, sci-fi writers like Ramez Naam and Hannu Rajaniemi, and artists like Heather Dewey Hagborg and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Excellent for the coffee table, great for your time capsule, too! Available for $49 (plus shipping).
Read on for more gift ideas from tests to treatments, toys to food, and as always, more books.
BABY’S FIRST MICROBIOME
It sometimes feels like papers come out almost weekly detailing how the microbiomes of infants and adults are linked to all kinds of health conditions, from preterm birth complications in infants to celiac disease in children to cognition in midlife. We were inspired by the Dutch Microbiome Project, which came out with a major report earlier this year sequencing the gut contents of 8,208 people from three generations across 2,756 families in the Netherlands. So we asked proto.life contributor Richard Sprague for microbiome-related gift suggestions.
One thing he recommended is the Tiny Health at-home gut test for moms and babies in their first three years. “You’re changing their diapers anyway, so throw some into this kit and for about $200 ($170 if you subscribe) you’ll get a state-of-the-art breakdown of your baby’s microbiome,” Sprague says. The test promises parents early insights into potential problems and solutions. Tiny Health’s at-home gut test ($169/test)
Another idea he offers is Viome’s new Full Body Intelligence Test, which is a traditional gut microbiome test combined with a blood and saliva test to give a more comprehensive picture. And as proto.life reported earlier this year, Viome’s business model is really a precision supplement subscription service, so the test will come with detailed tailor-made recommendations on food and nutrition based on their proprietary algorithms where are trained on a pool of hundreds of thousands of customers. According to Sprague, you can even “pay an extra $180/month for precision supplements, with dozens of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and probiotics in capsules formulated one-at-a-time to fit your unique profile.” Viome Full Body Intelligence Test ($349)
QUANTIFIED SELF STOCKING STUFFERS
Forget about those clever apps that track old Saint Nick as he traipses across rooftops from the North Pole to your neighborhood. Spoiler alert: Santa Claus doesn’t exist! So why bother?! Why not track your own health biomarkers instead? Here are some suggestions.
The new Iollo metabolome test kit promises to show you the levels of some 500 molecules in your blood, including creatinine, cortisol, histamine, lactic acid, serotonin, and all 20 amino acids. But the subscription-based service promises to do more and actually help you understand not just where your levels are now but where they should be—and provide “evidence-based dietary and behavioral action plans” to help you modify your diet and make other changes to get there. Iollo metabolome test kit (Starting at $23/month)
The SiPhox Health biometric tracking subscription service boasts it will give you a complete picture of your health. We’re not sure about that, but their at-home blood test will measure 17+ biomarkers, including cholesterol, hormones, vitamin D, and more. Plus you can order either the specific male or female panel for extra insights at the hormone level. SiPhox Health Biometric tracking (Starting at $95/month)
NOTHING SAYS “HAPPY HOLIDAYS” LIKE KNOWING YOUR RISK OF A MASSIVE CORONARY
Another at-home test available this year is the Epi+Gen CHD, the flagship product of Chicago-based Cardio Diagnostics. Cardiovascular diseases are among the leading causes of death in the United States, and the new blood-based test is designed to assess your 3-year risk for coronary heart disease, which is the most common type of heart disease and the primary cause of heart attacks. It looks for inherited genetic markers as well as epigenetic signs of risk as a result of lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking or pattern of exercise. Epi+Gen CHD test ($449)
THE GIFT OF LIGHT AND HEAVY SLEEP
Many people suffer from potential circadian disruptions: Those who travel a lot and change time zones frequently, doctors, nurses, and other essential health workers who do late or early shifts in hospitals and other workplaces—and even the odd journalist who stays up too late working on this year’s gift guide!
Disrupted sleep can be serious and affect your health in many ways. So for those in your life who may suffer from such disruptions, there is the AYO Circadian Light Therapy Wearable, a specially designed pair of high-tech glasses that expose your eyes to timed pulses of blue light that stimulate the circadian rhythm regions in your brain.
Judging by the marketing materials, these are not the sort of glasses you will want to wear out. Not since Google Glass has any eyewear made less of a well-met fashion statement. But hey—if they improve your sleep, who cares! AYO Circadian Light Therapy Wearable + App ($269)
GIVE THE GIFT OF CALM
For stress reduction, it’s all about toning the vagus nerve—a nerve that connects your brain to your gut and is connected to many of your major organs, too. You can do different things to tone the vagus nerve, including meditating, splashing cold water on your face, and humming. The Sensate 2 is another option. It’s a vibrating device that sits on your breastbone as you listen to music from the Sensate app that corresponds to the vibrations. It’s a highly effective way of kicking your body out of “fight or flight” mode and into “rest and digest” mode. Some of the vibration patterns are reminiscent of a cat purring—and have the same calming effect. This is a unique gift that anyone would appreciate. Sensate 2 device ($299.99)
DEVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH ESSENTIAL TREMOR AND MIGRAINES
Millions of Americans suffer from essential tremor, the common movement disorder where simple, deliberate tasks like eating soup or writing can be affected by hand shaking. The Cala Trio is a wrist-worn electrical stimulator that’s cleared by the FDA as a class II medical device for alleviating these symptoms. And they have lots of clinical claims and testimonials on their site to back up the fact that it works.
The device is available only by prescription, so you probably can’t surprise your loved one with a gift, but doing the research should be enough to show you care. Cala Trio (Available by prescription only)
Another wearable device available by prescription is Theranica’s conditioned pain modulation device Nerivio. Designed to be worn on the upper arm and controlled by an app, it stimulates peripheral nerves with tiny electrical impulses. The imperceptible pulses send signals to the brain’s pain regulatory centers, and that helps reduce the pain of migraine attacks, all without drugs. The company has a lot of clinical data on its web site, and the device is FDA cleared for people 12 and older. Nerivio (Available by prescription only)
LASER YOUR WAY TO PERFECT SKIN AT HOME
Lyma Laser is a 500 milliwatt handheld laser device operating at 808 nanometer wavelength that was approved by the FDA earlier this year for over the counter use to make your skin look better. It’s based on low level laser therapy, which is medical grade technology originally shown to be effective in rebuilding torn cartilage.
According to the company, Lyma Laser uses near infrared light to penetrate to the deepest layers of the epidermis, helping repair skin cells. Lyma offers lots of testimonials on its site, with happy users saying it improves skin pigmentation, wrinkles, scarring, acne, and blemishes. The company also claims it improves surface texture, clarity, and the appearance of pores. What’s not to love? At $2,156, this could be an item off the wishlist in the song “Santa, Baby.” Lyma Laser Starter Kit ($2,156)
Toys and Maker Stuff
LATE NIGHT OFFICE GAMES
With the sun setting so early, it’s hard to stay focused on work after dark. So why not shake your colleagues out of their workday stupor with a bioluminescent glowing water blaster? Nerf guns were fine for the 20th century, but it’s almost 2023—you need to upgrade your office weapons to neobiological standards! SplashLight glowing water blaster ($24.95)
TAKING THE PLASTIC OUT OF POLYURETHANE
Multiple people recommended we look at the Pollinator, which allows you to make resin models or parts using a cast polyurethane system that substitutes algae for the fossil fuels normally used to make durable parts and prototypes. Algal Polyol 001 is now a USDA-certified biobased product, and anything made solely from their resin system would be considered more than 50 percent biobased. Adding in their spirulina blue pigment will make your model cast “jade green” or you can stick with beeswax yellow. Pollinator Kit ($60–$70)
START THEM EARLY
It’s never too soon to help your child discover the wonders of biology, and although not new this year, we still love the DNA Playground, which over the years has just gotten bigger, better (and more expensive). It’s a mini biology lab for your home (or school) now featuring all-in-one heating and cooling, touch controls, and sensors so you can engineer bacteria and DNA in your very own Petri dish. Best of all, set up and clean up take minutes instead of an hour or more. DNA Playground ($538)
Yeah, we’re suckers for bioluminescence, so we just had to feature The Odin’s genetic design starter kit that allows you to engineer E. coli bacteria with a jellyfish gene called Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), which will set your bacteria aglow when you shine light on it. I mean, come on, who doesn’t want glowing jellyfish bacteria? Genetic Design Starter Kit – Glowing Jellyfish Bacteria ($39.99)
Reading and Eating
A pinker pineapple
As one of the sweetest fruits out there, the pineapple probably didn’t need to get any sweeter. But Del Monte thought it needed to get pinker, so it spent 16 years developing its Instagram-ready Pinkglow pineapple. Yes it was genetically altered, no they don’t say how. And as photogenic as it clearly is, you should be aware that your exquisite luxury pineapple will arrive without its glorious crown. In a FAQ on their website, Del Monte explains that “Pinkglow pineapples are harvested by hand. In order to regenerate new pineapple crops, the crown needs to be planted.” Of course, this also conveniently prevents the recipient from doing the same, thus ensuring the company’s continued monopoly of its Pinkglow fabulousness. Pinkglow pineapple ($39)
SYNTHETIC ICE CREAM
For anyone who is vegan, lactose intolerant, or simply wanting to try the latest new thing, Brave Robot ice cream could be the perfect gift. It’s made using Perfect Day‘s synthesized milk proteins, which are actual dairy proteins brewed by microflora via fermentation instead of cows. The plant-based ice cream has no lactose, and it’s completely animal-free. Available in 12 flavors that range from vanilla to raspberry white truffle or chocolate cherry brownie, the ice cream still has plenty of sugar, of course, so don’t think for a second that it’s guilt-free. Brave Robot ice cream (~$6.99 at a store near you)
THE ANSWER IS CELL BIOLOGY
After winning the Pulitzer Prize for his book about cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies, and then diving deep into genetics in The Gene, Siddartha Mukherjee brings his boundless curiosity and storytelling impulse to explore what we know—and still don’t know—about the cell. Add this to your canon of Mukherjee masterpieces. The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human ($26.99)
OF PLANTS AND BIRDS AND AI AND TREES
There are ways of thinking and there are ways of seeing but James Bridle wants you to consider new ways of being. Their book draws a thread from the soil through the minerals and plants and animals and humans straight up through to the multitude of artificial intelligences we’ll be living with soon in the hopes that we’ll be able to connect the dots, and see how all these forms of intelligence should guide us. It’s an inspiring read designed to get you to think differently, as Bridle, the writer, artist, and big thinker clearly does. You can check out our conversation with them here. Ways of Being ($30)
EXPLORING THE FUTURE OF FOOD
The gorgeous bi-annual print magazine Mold covers the future of food, with a healthy dose of food-inspired art, too. Check out their Instagram to get a sense of their aesthetic. Edgy and fresh, this is a fun gift for someone who geeks out on food—or the future. Mold magazine 1-year subscription (2 issues) ($38)
THE BEAUTY OF IT ALL
If you love synthetic biology, and the folks at Ginkgo Bioworks really, really love synthetic biology, you will appreciate the beauty and design of all things biological. That’s why their quarterly publication, Grow, is such a visual and intellectual treat. Created by molecular biologist Christina Agapakis, who is also an artist and writer, the quarterly publication has themed issues on Beauty, Nature, Equity, and the latest one, Futures. Sophisticated, gorgeous, thoughtful. Grow by Ginkgo Bioworks ($15 per issue)
HAPPINESS IN TEN BREATHS
Berkeley, California-based Zen Buddhism teacher Glen Schneider has developed a simple practice to cultivate gratitude and happiness that he calls the “ten breath practice,” which is inspired by studies in neuroscience he says show that it only takes about 30 seconds to make new neural pathways. When you encounter something beautiful, take ten conscious breaths to help rewire your brain to notice things that make you feel good. Beauty and peace are available in abundance—sometimes we just need some help slowing down to actually see it. The practice is easy to learn, but having the book in hand will help you develop the habit. Ten Breaths to Happiness ($12.95)
For more book gift ideas, see proto.life editor Jason Socrates Bardi’s book reviews this week.