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Recruiting engineered cells to work for warfighters
Date:4/8/2013

lities of microbes to collect chemical and physical signal information of different types and process this information," Chrisey said. "We already make a lot of medicines and industrial products using cells and engineered cells. Synthetic biology is going to smarten that process up, make it less susceptible to failure and save money by allowing us greater control of the engineered cells."

Another initiative is looking at microbes that use carbon dioxide and electrical current for their metabolism and programming them to make liquid fuels. "Eventually, in a remote location, with just a vial of these organisms and materials that most people consider to be waste products, Sailors or Marines could potentially make organic compoundssuch as fuel, medicine or polymerson demand, even under austere conditions," Chrisey said.

In the long term, synthetic circuits offer possibilities for enabling new methods for manufacturing. These new processes can be used: to make certain products, such as biofuels, pharmaceuticals and specialty chemicals; as medical devices and therapies for infection control, regenerating tissues and disease treatment; as environmental sensors and pollution treatments; and for micro-robotic systems.

The Multidisciplinary University Initiative (MURI) launched today, "Next-generation genetic devices: Model-guided Discovery and Optimization of Cell-Based Sensors," is aimed at applying tools from synthetic biology to construct high-performance and robust genetic sensors that respond to non-natural signals, such as non-visible wavelengths of light (ultraviolet and infrared) and magnetic fields. This program is expected to contribute to the development of "smart" hybrid biological-robotic systems that will detect threats in the environment. The universities involved are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Penn State, Rice University, Rutgers University, California Institute of Technology and University of Minnesota.

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Contact: Peter Vietti
onrcsc@onr.navy.mil
703-588-2167
Office of Naval Research
Source:Eurekalert

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