by Ye Chen, Jae Kyoung Kim, Andrew J. Hirning, Krešimir Josić, Matthew R. Bennett
"A challenge of synthetic biology is the creation of cooperative microbial systems that exhibit population-level behaviors. Such systems use cellular signaling mechanisms to regulate gene expression across multiple cell types. We describe the construction of a synthetic microbial consortium consisting of two distinct cell types—an “activator” strain and a “repressor” strain. These strains produced two orthogonal cell-signaling molecules that regulate gene expression within a synthetic circuit spanning both strains. The two strains generated emergent, population-level oscillations only when cultured together. Certain network topologies of the two-strain circuit were better at maintaining robust oscillations than others. The ability to program population-level dynamics through the genetic engineering of multiple cooperative strains points the way toward engineering complex synthetic tissues and organs with multiple cell types."
Since the 1970s technological advancements in the fields of synthetic biology and metabolic engineering have led to a dramatic reduction in both time and cost required for generating genomic mutations in a variety of organisms. The union of genomic editing machinery, DNA inkjet printers, and bioinformatics algorithms allows engineers to design a library of thousands of unique oligos as well as build and test these designs on a ∼2 months time-scale and at a cost of roughly ∼0.3 cents per base pair. The implications of these capabilities for a variety of fields are far-reaching, with potential impacts in defense, agricultural, human health, and environmental research. The explosion of synthetic biology applications over the past two decades have led many to draw parallels between biological engineering and the computer sciences. In this review, we highlight some important parallels between these fields and emphasize the importance of engineering design strategies.
Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have for the first time created and used a nanoscale vehicle made of DNA to deliver a CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool into cells in both cell culture and an animal model. The CRISPR-Cas system, which is found in bacteria and archaea, protects bacteria from invaders such as viruses. It does this by creating small strands of RNA called CRISPR RNAs, which match DNA sequences specific to a given invader. When those CRISPR RNAs find a match, they unleash Cas9 proteins that cut the DNA. In recent years, the CRISPR-Cas system has garnered a great deal of attention in the research community for its potential use as a gene editing tool - with the CRISPR RNA identifying the targeted portion of the relevant DNA, and the Cas protein cleaving it. But for Cas9 to do its work, it must first find its way into the cell. This work focused on demonstrating the potential of a new vehicle for directly introducing the CRISPR-Cas9 complex - the entire gene-editing tool - into a cell.
The Escapist Synthetic Biology Could Let Us Recycle Human Waste For Space Travel The Escapist One day, astronauts might recycle urine and carbon dioxide into highly necessary food and medicines for space missions.
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