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The Role of AI in Synthetic Biology: A Comprehensive Overview
The field of synthetic biology has been rapidly evolving in recent years, thanks in large part to the growing influence of artificial intelligence (AI). AI has become an integral part of synthetic biology research, playing a crucial role in the design, optimization, and analysis of biological systems. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the role of AI in synthetic biology, highlighting the current trends and making predictions for the future.
Programmable Plants? Engineering Plant Growth Control Systems
Plant-based burgers that bleed, microbes that produce unnaturally strong spider silk, face masks with a CRISPR sensor for wearable detection of SARS-CoV-2 and plants that can be programmed like computers: the products of synthetic biology research sometimes seem like gadgets sent from the future. Nonetheless, they are changing what we eat, how we heal, what we wear and how we take care of our environment.
Chemicals from thin air: gas fermentation and the future of bio-manufacturing
Bacteria can metabolise sugars in milk or wheat into wondrous forms like sourdough bread, sauerkraut, beer and cheese. Modern industrial fermentation uses similar techniques: it cultivates biochemicals in the bodies of microorganisms for drugs, proteins, nutraceuticals, and personal care chemicals. Already, fermentation technology allows us to replace petrochemical inputs with organic feedstock for a vast range of goods. However, new feedstocks could be about to bolster its sustainability credentials further.
Engineers to build cyborg locusts, study odor-guided navigation
The inviting smell of a freshly baked cookie immediately triggers a motor response to search for the source of that smell. Often the cookie can be easily found. This everyday event that we perform without a thought is an amazing feat that combines our superior ability to smell the cookie and computational prowess to determine the direction to move toward the cookie. Robots that possess similar capabilities are yet to be developed as the basic biological principles that are needed to perform this task are yet to be fully understood.
Plastic-eating enzymes could help solve pollution problem
Two new enzymes can break down one of the most common single-use plastics, shows a study by Brunel University London in the journal, Biofilms and Microbiomes. They could be developed potentially to dissolve plastic bottles faster than current recycling methods and create the raw material to make new ones.
It’s alive! How living materials are reshaping sustainable engineering
Wouldn’t it be great to have a sustainable material that can be grown from small quantities, capable of aiding in wound healing, delivering medications, and even heating buildings? That’s the promise of engineered living materials, also known as active and response materials. These cutting-edge materials consist of a scaffold populated by or even built from living cells, which react in specific ways to different stimuli. Even more impressive is their ability to sustain, regulate or heal themselves.
DREAM tool for gene therapies uses ‘locally sourced’ components
Sourcing some materials closer to home may be a good practice not only in the produce aisle but also the synthetic biology lab. Seeking to minimize the use of components derived from viral sources, Rice University bioengineers developed a tool that activates silent or insufficiently expressed genes using human-derived proteins known as mechanosensitive transcription factors that naturally enable our cells to turn on specific genes in response to mechanical cues.
The medicine of the future could be artificial life forms
Creating artificial life is a recurring theme in both science and popular literature, where it conjures images of creeping slime creatures with malevolent intentions or super-cute designer pets. At the same time, the question arises: What role should artificial life play in our environment here on Earth, where all life forms are created by nature and have their own place and purpose?
New vaccine technology could help fight future viruses and variants
The University of Cambridge has revealed that a new vaccine antigen technology could help enhance vaccine candidates to tackle potential future viruses and variants. Developed by the University of Cambridge and its spin-out company, Digitally Immune Optimised Synthetic Vaccines (DIOSynVax), the technology could enhance vaccine protection against global threats, including existing and future virus outbreaks.
UCSC iGEM 2023 addressing harmful algal blooms through synthetic biology
This year’s team of student innovators, members of the UCSC International Genetically Engineering Machine (iGEM) program, is addressing a local yet widespread environmental issue: harmful algal blooms in Watsonville’s Pinto Lake. The team’s bioengineering approach targets the toxic genes of the specific bacteria responsible for the algal blooms, creating a non-invasive, long-term solution to preserve biodiversity, ecosystem balance, and public health.