Funding from NIST AMTech Program Supplements SRC Semiconductor Synthetic Biology Effort, Helps Industry Develop Technology Roadmap | Virtual Strategy Magazine is an online publication devoted entirely to virtualization technologies.
Biotechnology is a widely interdisciplinary field focusing on the use of living cells or organisms to solve established problems in medicine, food production and agriculture. Synthetic biology, the science of engineering complex biological systems that do not exist in nature, continues to provide the biotechnology industry with tools, technologies and intellectual property leading to improved cellular performance. One key aspect of synthetic biology is the engineering of deliberately reprogrammed designer cells whose behavior can be controlled over time and space. This review discusses the most commonly used techniques to engineer mammalian designer cells; while control elements acting on the transcriptional and translational levels of target gene expression determine the kinetic and dynamic profiles, coupling them to a variety of extracellular stimuli permits their remote control with user-defined trigger signals. Designer mammalian cells with novel or improved biological functions not only directly improve the production efficiency during biopharmaceutical manufacturing but also open the door for cell-based treatment strategies in molecular and translational medicine. In the future, the rational combination of multiple sets of designer cells could permit the construction and regulation of higher-order systems with increased complexity, thereby enabling the molecular reprogramming of tissues, organisms or even populations with highest precision.
by Kuntal Mukherjee, Souryadeep Bhattacharyya and Pamela Peralta-Yahya
"A key limitation to engineering microbes for chemical production is a reliance on low-throughput chromatography-based screens for chemical detection. While colorimetric chemicals are amenable to high-throughput screens, many value-added chemicals are not colorimetric and require sensors for high-throughput screening. Here, we use G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) known to bind medium-chain fatty acids in mammalian cells to rapidly construct chemical sensors in yeast. Medium-chain fatty acids are immediate precursors to the advanced biofuel fatty acid methyl esters, which can serve as a “drop-in” replacement for D2 diesel. One of the sensors detects even-chain C8–C12 fatty acids with a 13- to 17-fold increase in signal after activation, with linear ranges up to 250 μM. Introduction of a synthetic response unit alters both dynamic and linear range, improving the sensor response to decanoic acid to a 30-fold increase in signal after activation, with a linear range up to 500 μM. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a whole-cell medium-chain fatty acid biosensor, which we envision could be applied to the evolutionary engineering of fatty acid-producing microbes. Given the affinity of GPCRs for a wide range of chemicals, it should be possible to rapidly assemble new biosensors by simply swapping the GPCR sensing unit. These sensors should be amenable to a variety of applications that require different dynamic and linear ranges, by introducing different response units."
The first of a series of three 30 minute videos produced by the American Society for Cybernetics and Change Management Systems, directed by Pille Bunnell, 19...
Socrates Logos's insight:
*A pioneer in biological computing*: *Heinz Förster*
His work focused on cybernetics, the exploration of regulatory systems, and who founded in 1958 the Biological Computer Lab (BCL) at the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Illinois. The work of the BCL was focused on the similarities in cybernetic systems and electronics and especially biology inspired computing.
A Muller, K.M
An Unfinished Revolution: Heinz von Foerster and the Biological Computer Laboratory / BCL 1958–1976Vienna Edition Echoraum (2007)
H Foerster, WR Ashby
KE Schaefer (Ed.), Bioastronautics, The Macmillan Co, New York (1964), pp. 333–360
"Despite the many great achievements of computers, no man-made computer can learn from its environment, adapt to its surroundings, spontaneously self-organize, and solve complex problems that require these abilities as well as a biological brain. These abilities arise from the fact that the brain is a complex system capable of emergent behavior, meaning that the system involves interactions between many units resulting in macroscale behavior that cannot be attributed to any individual unit.
Unfortunately, conventional fabrication methods used for today's computers cannot be used to realize complex systems to their full potential due to scaling limits—the methods simply cannot make small enough interconnected units.
Now in a new paper published in Nanotechnology, researchers at UCLA and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan have developed a method to fabricate a self-organized complex device called an atomic switch network that is in many ways similar to a brain or other natural or cognitive computing device.
"Complex phenomena and self-organization—though ubiquitous in nature, social behavior, and the economy—have never been successfully used in conventional computers for prediction and modelling," James Gimzewski, Chemistry Professor at UCLA, told Phys.org. "The device we have created is capable of rapidly generating self-organization in a small chip with high speed. Furthermore, it bypasses the issue of exponential machine complexity required as a function of problem complexity as in today's computers. Our first steps form the basis for a new type of computation that is urgently needed in our ever increasingly connected world."...."
RNA-based temperature sensing is common in bacteria that live in fluctuating environments. Most naturally-occurring RNA thermosensors are heat-inducible, have long sequences, and function by sequestering the ribosome binding site in a hairpin structure at lower temperatures. Here, we demonstrate the de novo design of short, heat-repressible RNA thermosensors. These thermosensors contain a cleavage site for RNase E, an enzyme native to Escherichia coli and many other organisms, in the 5' untranslated region of the target gene. At low temperatures, the cleavage site is sequestered in a stem-loop, and gene expression is unobstructed. At high temperatures, the stem-loop unfolds, allowing for mRNA degradation and turning off expression. We demonstrated that these thermosensors respond specifically to temperature and provided experimental support for the central role of RNase E in the mechanism. We also demonstrated the modularity of these RNA thermosensors by constructing a three-input composite circuit that utilizes transcriptional, post-transcriptional, and post-translational regulation. A thorough analysis of the 24 thermosensors allowed for the development of design guidelines for systematic construction of similar thermosensors in future applications. These short, modular RNA thermosensors can be applied to the construction of complex genetic circuits, facilitating rational reprogramming of cellular processes for synthetic biology applications.
The biosynthesis of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids such as morphine requires tyrosine oxidases, which are prone to overoxidation. A colorimetric readout that co-opts betaxanthin enzymes now enables discovery of an improved oxidase that, with other enzymes, makes reticuline in yeast.
Scientists have built a tiny, long-term memory cell that can both store and process information at the same time, just like the human brain. This is one of the first multi-state electronic memory cells, and it represents a crucial step towards building a bionic brain.
Not only does this new cell - which is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair - open up the potential to store and process way more data than ever before, scientists are even more excited about the fact that it has 'memristive' abilities. This means that it's able to retain remember and be influenced by information that has previously been stored on it - something that our current storage devices aren't capable of.
"This is the closest we have come to creating a brain-like system with memory that learns and stores analog information and is quick at retrieving this stored information," project leader Sharath Sriram, from RMIT University in Australia said in a press release. "The human brain is an extremely complex analog computer ... its evolution is based on its previous experiences, and up until now this functionality has not been able to be adequately reproduced with digital technology."
The cell's new abilities add another dimension beyond the on/off memory cells we currently use to store our data on conventional devices, such as USBs, which are only capable of storing one binary digit (either a 0 or a 1) at a time. The researchers are comparing this to the difference between a regular light switch, which either turns the light on or off, and a dimmer switch, which gives you access to all the shades of light in-between.
"It can give you much more flexibility in terms of what information you store and what functionality you get," one of the researchers, Hussein Nili, told Jessica Kidd over at ABC News.
Publishing in Advanced Functional Materials, the researchers explain that the cells are made out of a functional oxide material in the form of an ultra-thin film. The team created the material last year, and demonstrated that it was highly stable and reliable. But they've now successfully introduced controlled defects into the film, which allow the cell to be influenced by previous events.
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