"We are thrilled to release the first episode of our newest open educational offering, ChemLab Boot Camp! It's a video series that chronicles the experiences of 14 real MIT freshmen as they get their first taste of working in MIT chemistry labs.
Each year, groups of MIT freshmen are introduced to MIT's laboratory environment through a four-week January course called 5.301 Chemistry Laboratory Techniques. In January 2012, a film crew followed these students as they competed to complete experiments. The stakes in the class are high—students who pass the class are guaranteed a job in an MIT research lab.
In January 2012, a film crew followed 14 students as they struggled to complete experiments required in the class. The stakes are high—students who pass the class are guaranteed a job in an MIT research lab."
"Cells perceive a wide variety of cellular and environmentalsignals, which are often processed combinatorially to generate particular phenotypic responses. Here, we employ both single and mixed cell type populations, pre-programmed with engineeredmodularcell signalling and sensing circuits, as processing units to detect and integratemultipleenvironmentalsignals. Based on an engineeredmodulargenetic AND logic gate, we report the construction of a set of scalable synthetic microbe-based biosensors comprising exchangeable sensory, signal processing and actuation modules. These cellular biosensors were engineered using distinct signalling sensory modules to precisely identify various chemical signals, and combinations thereof, with a quantitative fluorescent output. The geneticlogic gate used can function as a biological filter and an amplifier to enhance the sensing selectivity and sensitivity of cell-based biosensors. In particular, an Escherichia coli consortium-basedbiosensor has been constructed that can detect and integrate three environmentalsignals (arsenic, mercury and copper ion levels) via either its native two-component signal transduction pathways or synthetic signalling sensors derived from other bacteria in combination with acell-cell communication module. We demonstrate how amodularcell-basedbiosensor can be engineered predictably using exchangeable synthetic gene circuit modules to sense and integratemultiple-input signals. This study illustrates some of the key practical design principles required for the future application of these biosensors in broad environmental and healthcare areas." http://bit.ly/PEyd0A
Lei Qi, Rachel E Haurwitz, Wenjun Shao, Jennifer A Doudna & Adam P Arkin
"Complex interactions among genetic components often result in variable systemic performance in designed multigene systems1, 2. Using the bacterial clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR) pathway3, 4 we develop a synthetic RNA-processing platform, and show that efficient and specific cleavage of precursor mRNA enables reliable and predictable regulation of multigene operons. Physical separation of linked genetic elements by CRISPR-mediated cleavage is an effective strategy to achieve assembly of promoters, ribosome binding sites, cis-regulatory elements, and riboregulators into single- and multigene operons with predictable functions in bacteria. We also demonstrate that CRISPR-based RNA cleavage is effective for regulation in bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. Programmable RNA processing using CRISPR offers a general approach for creating context-free genetic elements and can be readily used in the bottom-up construction of increasingly complex biological systems in a plug-and-play manner." http://bit.ly/S3acWm
The workshop aims to bring together systems and synthetic biology researchers from across the Crick partner institutes to encourage collaboration. Location: Lecture Theatre 311, Huxley Building, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus. Sep 19
/PRNewswire/ -- Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI), a privately held company developing and commercializing genomic-driven solutions to solve a range of global challenges, today announced they have purchased from Febit Holding GmbH the worldwide rights...
Cell culture goes 3-D with devices that better mimic in vivo conditions
by Amber Dance
"Many drugs have looked like blockbusters in the cell-culture dish—easily infiltrating target cells and carrying out their tasks—only to flop in animals or people. The problem is simple: unlike those culture dishes, “we’re not flat,” says Shuichi Takayama of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
One issue with traditional 2-D culture is that cells in a single layer attached to glass or plastic have unfettered access to the media above them. They grow unusually quickly, as they imbibe a steady stream of nutrients. When drugs are added, the cells absorb them just as easily. But when those same drugs come up against the complex vasculature and cellular barriers in a living organism, they may fail to even reach their targets.
In addition, 2-D culture requires cells to interface with an unnatural material. “The interactions [cells] have with the plastic or glass, it’s not the same as the cell-cell interactions they have in vivo,” says Glauco Souza of Nano3D Biosciences, Inc., in Houston. Even when researchers layer a culture dish with proteins such as those found in the extracellular matrix, “that’s a very artificial substrate.”
After more than a century of mostly flat cultures, cells in the laboratory can now experience 3-D environments. “This area has really heated up because people have realized the benefits of 3-D,” says Jeffrey Morgan of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. “There is a lot of innovation going on.”
Adding the third dimension makes a world of difference. It changes cells’ gene expression, their protein production, and their very shapes. It can influence how cells differentiate, proliferate, interact, and survive in culture. For example, liver tissue grown in 2-D cannot metabolize drugs.
And in a recent study, John March of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, discovered that a 3-D ..." http://bit.ly/NAmrI8
"The idea of using bacteria-fighting viruses as a weapon against hard-to-treat infections is making a surprising comeback, but with a twist on how it has been attempted for nearly a century. Researchers and companies are now tweaking and deconstructing these bacteria killers in an effort to develop a new arsenal against antibiotic-resistant superbugs—one with more potency and a better likelihood of regulatory approval....."
"Andemariam Beyene sat by the hospital window, the low Arctic sun on his face, and talked about the time he thought he would die. Two and a half years ago doctors in Iceland, where Mr. Beyene was studying to be an engineer, discovered a golf-ball-size tumor growing into his windpipe. Despite surgery and radiation, it kept growing. In the spring of 2011, when Mr. Beyene came to Sweden to see another doctor, he was practically out of options. “I was almost dead,” he said. “There was suffering. A lot of suffering.”
But the doctor, Paolo Macchiarini, at the Karolinska Institute here, had a radical idea. He wanted to make Mr. Beyene a new windpipe, out of plastic and his own cells.
Implanting such a “bioartificial” organ would be a first-of-its-kind procedure for the field of regenerative medicine, ....."
Washington, September 14 (ANI): Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a novel technology that can fabricate, in mere seconds, microscale three dimensional (3D) structures out of soft, biocompatible hydrogels.
"In nature, many proteins have evolved to have self-complementary shapes. This drives them to assemble into supramolecular structures, sometimes of great complexity, and often carrying out sophisticated cellular functions. Designing novel proteins that can self-assemble into similarly complex structures is a longstanding goal in bioengineering. New ideas, combined with continually improving computer algorithms, are making it possible to advance on that goal, bringing wide-ranging applications in synthetic biology within reach. Prospective applications range from vaccine design to molecular delivery to bioactive materials. Recent strategies and examples of successfully designed protein cages, layers, and crystals are reviewed."
J. Chris Anderson Assistant Professor of Bioengineering University of California, Berkeley
"The advent of next-generation sequencing and emerging technologies for DNA fabrication will provide lower-cost solutions to the limiting problem of reading and writing genetic programs. To capitalize on this technological potential, new approaches to design, analysis, and debugging are required. Ultimately, the combination of these developments will enable new applications in genetic engineering such as cellular therapeutics, new materials, and sustainable bioenergy and chemical production. I will describe our efforts to identify new design principles in synthetic biology, construct therapeutic bacteria and genetic manipulation systems, and computationally encapsulate engineering knowledge to predict better genetic designs and quantify risk."
Bacchus W, Lang M, El-Baba MD, Weber W, Stelling J, Fussenegger M.
"The design of synthetic biology-inspired control devices enabling entire mammalian cells to receive, process and transfer metabolic information and so communicate with each other via synthetic multichannel networks may provide new insight into the organization of multicellular organisms and future clinical interventions. Here we describe communication networks that orchestrate behavior in individual mammalian cells in response to cell-to-cell metabolic signals. We engineered sender, processor and receiver cells that interact with each other in ways that resemble natural intercellular communication networks such as multistep information processing cascades, feed-forward-based signaling loops, and two-way communication. The engineered two-way communication devices mimicking natural control systems in the development of vertebrate extremities and vasculature was used to program temporal permeability in vascular endothelial cell layers. These synthetic multicellular communication systems may inspire future therapies or tissue engineering strategies." http://1.usa.gov/T00Sns
"Plant metabolism represents an enormous repository of compounds that are of pharmaceutical and biotechnological importance. Engineering plant metabolism into microbes will provide sustainable solutions to produce pharmaceutical and fuel molecules that could one day replace substantial portions of the current fossil-fuel based economy. Metabolic engineering entails targeted manipulation of biosynthetic pathways to maximize yields of desired products. Recent advances in Systems Biology and the emergence of Synthetic Biology have accelerated our ability to design, construct and optimize cell factories for metabolic engineering applications. Progress in predicting and modeling genome-scale metabolic networks, versatile gene assembly platforms and delicate synthetic pathway optimization strategies has provided us exciting opportunities to exploit the full potential of cell metabolism. In this review, we will discuss how systems and synthetic biology tools can be integrated to create tailor-made cell factories for efficient production of natural products and fuel molecules in microorganisms."
Genetic testing has taken off in recent years. Companies like 23andMe and Medcan are finally allowing people to get their DNA tested so that they can better understand their genetic lineage and determine if they're prone to certain diseases.
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