Synthetic Biology to Bring an Evolutionary Change in Science and Design

Various projects, such as Algaculture and Genetic Trace are using synthetic biology to bring an evolutionary change in science and design.
Synthetic biology is an area of research that combines multiple disciplines, such as biotechnology, molecular biology, biophysics, genetic engineering, and others. Technological advancements have enabled more thorough study of bacteria, tissues, and genetic modification. It also allows to morph mortal materials into objects. The creation of wide range of synthetic material and living specimen is possible with an emergence of synthetic biology. There are various projects that are using synthetic biology to bring an evolutionary change in science and design. 

Projects That Are Using Synthetic Biology

Algaculture by Michael Burton & Michiko Nitta 
In this project, algae are used to supplement human functions by gaining energy from light. It allows human to be semi-photosynthetic. So humans will be half plant and half humans. 

All That I Am by Koby Barhad 
In this project, information is obtained from a sample of hair of Elvis Presley and mice are tailored with his genetic characteristics.

Grow Your Own Cheese by Agapakis & Tolaas 
In this project, human bacteria are used to make cheese that reflects microbial landscape of an individual. This project is about making food using human products. 

Body Modification for Love by Michiko Nitta 
In this project, body parts of other humans are grown genetically upon the skin of a human. This project may introduce a whole new way of tattooing.

Genetic Trace by Susana Soares
In this project, cilia cells in the fingernails are modified for collection of genetic information to aid in social communication. 

Role of Synthetic Biology in Fastening Up Development of Novel Vaccines

Synthetic biology researchers from Oxford University have invented a new technique to fasten the development of novel vaccines. Many vaccines are developed on the basis of virus-like particles, which resemble viruses but do not contain pathogenic genetic material that causes diseases. These particles protect immune system from an exposure to pathogens. 
Karl Brune, leading the work in Professor Mark Howarth's lab in Oxford's Department of Biochemistry said, “Current techniques to develop VLP-based vaccines take time and do not always work. Whilst getting the pathogen parts to stick to the carrier VLP, often problems such as misassembly or misfolding arise that make the vaccine ineffective at generating protective immunity.”

High development costs and huge amount of time are invested in development of vaccines against malaria, cancer, or HIV. Karl Brune’s work is able to overcome this hurdle by using the lab's 'bacterial superglue' in vaccine assembly. This glue is made of two parts, SpyCatcher, a larger protein and SpyTag, a smaller protein part. The bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes are used to engineer both of these parts. An unbreakable bond is formed when these two parts meet. The team researchers have succeeded in biologically encoding SpyCatcher on VLPs, which fastens the process to glue these two proteins parts. Scientists and engineers are able to glue SpyCatcher and SpyTag easily to speed up the process of developing new vaccines.

Karl Brune added, “We tested the SpyCatcher-VLP – SpyTag-antigen combination using a range of malarial and cancer-relevant antigens. This showed that linking can be done simply and quickly to produce stable vaccines that generated robust antibody responses. We need to do more research, both to see if we can use Tag/Catcher fusion with other diseases and to test effectiveness in live rather than lab conditions.”

Synthetic Biology-Based Genetic Switch
Oxitec, a British company has added a genetic switch to Aedes aegypti mosquitoes using synthetic biology-based genetic engineering techniques. It is the species of mosquitoes that causes dengue and Zika. The switch remains off till the mosquitoes feed the antibiotic tetracycline. Once the drug is removed, the switch is activated to prevent genes from working, and mosquito are killed eventually. Wild mosquito populations are controlled using this technique.

The Oxitec mosquitoes’ offspring inherits this genetic kill switch. They release modified male mosquitoes. After the release, they mate with wild females and pass on this trait before dying. This technique ensures that the next generation of wild mosquitoes that are starved with tetracycline should die before reaching maturity.

Analysts studying the synthetic biology industry have revealed comprehensive information about changing market trends in research reports. Recently, Allied Market Research has published a report titled, “World Synthetic Biology Market - Opportunities and Forecast, 2014 - 2020.” As per the report, the world synthetic biology market generated a revenue of $5,245.7 million in 2015 and is expected to register a CAGR of 23% from 2015 to 2020. The report offers an extensive analysis of drivers & opportunities, competitive intelligence, and detailed segmentation. Moreover, the research outlines SWOT analysis of key manufacturers, value chain analysis, and recent developments.

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