Genetic BFF's

Everyone has that one person with whom they share an indescribable bond of inside jokes, nicknames and traditions. This is your best friend, your crutch, and most importantly your “person”. Have you ever wondered why your friends are your friends? Nicholas Christakis states, “We prefer the company of people we resemble”. However, a recent study…

Vegans, Eat More Cheese

The art of creating cheese is a tale as old as time, dating back thousands of years. This tradition is changing because of a team of citizen scientists, bio-hackers, biotech-engineers, and computer scientists from the Bay area in San Francisco. According to the video and USA TODAY, 60% of adults are considered lactose intolerant. These…

CRISPR engulfed in Intellectual Property debacle. What will this fight mean for the future of Synbio?

The United Kingdom’s Independent has released details of a debate amongst the originators of the CRISPR method of genome engineering continuing to rage this May. This battle for the monetary spoils of such a tremendous scientific advancement has gripped former colleagues at premier institutions on two continents. As the French team of Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier…

The Next Step in Synthetic Biology? New Artificial Nuelotides can Change the Basics

This week, the synthetic biology community is excited to add two new materials to its genetic toolbox. Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute of La Jolla, California have announced the successful synthesis of two entirely synthetic nucleobases with the ability of incorporating the new proteins into the DNA of E. Coli bacteria. These breakthrough findings…

What 80 Biologists Working on the First Synthetic Yeast Chromosome Wish they had

With the most recent triumph of developing the world’s first completely synthetic eukaryotic chromosome under the leadership of Dr. Jef Boeke’s Johns Hopkins lab it is clear that ambitions within the field of Synthetic Biology are growing larger every day. With these incredible undertakings come larger sequences, and with these larger sequences come larger teams…

synbio, regenerative medicine, synthetic biology, genetic engineering

Regenerative Medicine

RoosterBio, Inc. is a relatively new biotechnology startup located in Frederick, Maryland in the Frederick Innovative Technology Center. It was founded by Dr. Jon Rowley and Dr. Uplaksh Kumar with the main purpose to focus on the building of a sustainable Regenerative Medicine industry. This startup seems to be paving the way for the rapidly…

CRISPR and the Art of Genome Editing

One of the most impressive developments in molecular biology is the
ability to change the DNA of living organisms.  Techniques for real-time
genetic modification are complex and diverse; often involving a large
protein capable of binding to a specific sequence of DNA and cutting it at
that sequence.  Zinc finger nucleases (ZLN’s) and transcription
activator-like effector nucleases (TALEN’s) are examples of such protein
complexes.  However, these techniques remain time consuming and
costly for the examination and alteration of large genomes.
And while the genomes of prokaryotic organisms like bacteria are
relatively simple, those of eukaryotic organisms like plants and mammals
are quite complicated and difficult to modify.  Fortunately, researchers in
Harvard professor George Church’s laboratory are developing a
technique called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short
palindromic repeats) for altering the DNA of human cells. CRISPR, like
most techniques in molecular biology, is derived from a natural process
in bacteria and archaea as an immune response to invading viruses.
In CRISPR, a small 20 nucleotide strand of RNA (sgRNA) binds to a
DNA region of interest.  This sgRNA is bound to a protein (Cas9) which
breaks the DNA strand, allowing for an additional DNA segment to be
inserted between the break.  CRISPR has also been used as a means to
regulate the activity of DNA which is already present in an organism’s
genome, either by increasing or decreasing protein expression.
The biological impact of scientists and doctors developing a means for
editing human DNA is enormous.  An individual with a disease could
have their genome sequenced to determine their genetic defect;
scientists could create a complement RNA molecule to bind to this
mutated DNA region, cut, and replace it with a fully functioning DNA
sequence.
Synthetic biologists could also use this technique to add completely
unique gene segments to human beings. From a moral standpoint,
improvement of the human being can be a controversial topic – critics
claim that we do not have the right to ‘play God’, but I think we would all
agree; if CRISPR can give me wings or the ability to produce my own
milk, I will forget about any ethical dilemma.
Frøkjær-Jensen, C. (2013). Exciting prospects for precise engineering of caenorhabditis elegans genomes
with CRISPR/Cas9. GeneticsGeneticsGenetics,             195, 635-642.
Lim, W., et al. (2013) Resource CRISPR-mediated modular RNA-guided regulation of transcription in