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Endless Perspectives: How a New Method of Genetic Modification Can Influence Technological Progress

Microbiologists from Tufts University (USA) have rebuilt the genome of microorganisms that participate in synthesis of important industrial substances. After their experiment, genetically modified yeasts began to work faster with an increased performance. Additionally, biologists “taught” them to eat xylose, which they were unable to digest before. The research authors told that the method they explored can be used in many various fields: from pharmacy to the liquidation of technogenic catastrophe consequences.

Gene Construction Kit

Tufts University scientists “reprogrammed” yeasts. Biologists could speed up their growth and include substances they couldn’t digest earlier into the ration of yeast shrooms.

In a new research, they used the GAL regulon: a small group of genes controlled by one gene-regulator. Usually, the GAL regulon controlled the digestion of galactose: the favorite eating substance of yeasts. But during the experiment, scientists replaced several genes with those able to be activated by xylose: sugar gotten from vegetable feedstocks that are hard to digest. All other genes of GAL group remained unchanged. And the mechanism of interaction between the new artificial gene regulon and genes responsible for feeding and survival of the cell remained the same, too. That modification allowed yeast cells to grow faster and give a greater performance.

Nikhil Nair, the author of the research, the Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Tufts University, shared the achievement. He said that instead of building a new metabolic network from nothing, it is possible to rebuild the existing regulons to make the organism actively grow on a new nutrient.

Scientists have additionally found out that the genes activated with XYL regulator have various growth mechanisms working faster. For instance, cell division and adenosine triphosphate – the universal energy source for all biochemical processes.

Industrial Use

American microbiologists say that the technology they have developed can significantly speedup and simplify industrial processes in pharmacy and industrial chemistry or even biofuel production.

Research authors say that their method will also be effective in the development of new artificial organisms which can have their own industrial use.

For instance, GMO-yeasts consuming xylose can be used to produce ethanol as biofuel. Earlier, scientists were afraid of increase of biofuel usage to cause the higher prices for food supplies, as for its production big amounts of corn and other crops had been used. But the method when yeasts know how to consume xylose reveals new cheaper ways to produce biofuel.

Nair remarked that scientists tried xylose in their research, but regulons still can be rebuilt in the ways for organisms to effectively digest any other kinds of sugars and nutrients they couldn’t digest before.

He also said, that a new method allows using GMO-bacteria to liquidate the consequences of oil leaks: microorganisms will just eat oil from water surfaces. According to the scientist’s opinion, slugs can be “reprogrammed” in the same way to lower the level of alkalis in soils.

DNA reprogramming perspectives are endless and they will help in the development of various fields of science and life: starting from the creation of innovative biotechnological materials and ending with the creation of genetically modified plants having increased photosynthesis abilities. Synthetic biology as a whole helps scientists find out how different organisms function.

Along with that, scientists warn us: the process of creation and regulation of gene modifications is a very difficult task. So, if to use such technologies in big scale projects, the situation can get out of control easily.

In the engineering craft it is not always possible to get organisms with wanted properties, and some results remain unknown. Such methods can be used for harmful purposes. For instance, to create biological weapons.