Building with Bio Credit: Pat Pataranutaporn. How to Grow (Almost) Anything class (htgaa)
Home » Biomanufacturing, chemicals & materials » Research roundup: Artificial cells respond to their environment, protein nanowires, and a new CRISPR algorithm

Research roundup: Artificial cells respond to their environment, protein nanowires, and a new CRISPR algorithm

Here’s our pick of the most interesting research news this week:

?‍?Researchers build artificial cells that sense and respond to their environment: Imperial College London scientists created cells that sense calcium ions and respond by fluorescing (glowing). First author James Hindley, from the Department of Chemistry at Imperial, said: “These systems could be developed for use across biotechnology. For example, we could envisage creating artificial cells that can sense cancer markers and synthesise a drug within the body, or artificial cells that can sense dangerous heavy metals in the environment and release selective sponges to clean them up.” [Article]

?An interdisciplinary research collaboration between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge has engineered a novel synthetic plant-microbe signalling pathway that could produce crops that need less fertiliser. This signalling network could provide the foundation for transferring nitrogen fixation to cereals like wheat and maize. [Article]

?Yeast cells handle stress by reprogramming their metabolism: In an article for Nature, researchers discuss: “understanding how the many different metabolic pathways in a cell interact and ensure its proper functioning under varying environmental conditions is necessary for designing cell ‘factories’ — genetically engineered cells that can be cultured to produce fuels, chemicals, foods or pharmaceuticals.” The findings of their study indicate that “supplementing yeast-cell medium with lysine could help the cells to overcome stress, and thus improve the efficiency of production of various valuable chemicals.” [Article]

?‍?CRISPR algorithm predicts how well gene editing will work: “Gene editing is a fast-changing field and as scientists increasingly look to CRISPR to aid in disease treatment it will be critical to make gene editing as accurate, and safe as possible,” according to James Zou, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical data science at Stanford University. “Our work demonstrates that machine learning algorithms can help us better understand the behavior of DNA repair and improve the precision and safety of gene editing.” The team has created a website for the algorithm that’s freely accessible.  [Article] 

?‍?In the latest paper from the Geobacter Lab led by microbiologist Derek Lovley at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he and colleagues report “a major advance” in the quest to develop electrically conductive protein nanowires in the bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens for use as chemical and biological sensors. “One of the most promising applications for protein nanowires is biomedical and environmental sensors,” he says. [Article]

?‍?Regulating genome edited organisms as GMOs has negative consequences for agriculture, society and economy, according to 117 research facilities in Europe. In a letter to the newly elected European Parliament and the European Commission, researchers write: “Subjecting crops obtained through modern genome editing to GMO regulations will deny European consumers, producers, researchers and entrepreneurs important opportunities in sustainable agriculture. Therefore, an urgent review and amendment of the European legislation on new breeding technologies is needed.”

?Building with Bio in “How to Grow (Almost) Anything”: “Imagine a future where students not only learn about biology, but also make and design with biology—from prototyping bio-molecules for curing diseases, engineering biological computers, and printing biomaterials for our sustainable future.” These ideas are possible now and explored in the course “How to Grow (Almost) Anything” at the MIT Media Lab.”


Marianna Limas

Marianna plays a critical role in displaying and communicating SynBioBeta’s message to the world. She manages SynBioBeta’s social media channels and newsletter, and works with the editorial, website, research and marketing teams.

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