BOSTON, Mass. (September 14, 2007)Harvard Medical School researchers have successfully synthesized a DNA-based memory loop in yeast cells, findings that mark a significant step forward in the emerging field of synthetic biology.
After constructing genes from random bits of DNA, researchers in the lab of Professor Pamela Silver, a faculty member in Harvard Medical Schools Department of Systems Biology, not only reconstructed the dynamics of memory, but also created a mathematical model that predicted how such a memory device might work.
Synthetic biology is an incredibly exciting field, with more possibilities than many of us can imagine, says Silver, lead author of the paper to be published in the September 15 issue of the journal Genes and Development. While this proof-of-concept experiment is simply one step forward, weve established a foundational technology that just might set the standard of what we should expect in subsequent work.
Like many emerging fields, theres still a bit of uncertainty over what, exactly, synthetic biology is. Ask any three scientists for a definition, and youll probably get four answers.
Some see it as a means to boost the production of biotech products, such as proteins for pharmaceutical uses or other kinds of molecules for, say, environmental clean-up. Others see it as a means to creating computer platforms that may bypass many of the onerous stages of clinical trials. In such a scenario, a scientist would type the chemical structure of a drug candidate into a computer, and a program containing models of cellular metabolism could generate information on how people would react to that compound.
Either way, at its core, synthetic biology boils down to gleaning insights into how biological systems work by reconstructing them. If you can build it, it forces you to understand it.
A team in Silvers Harvard Medical School lab led by Caroline Ajo-Franklin, now at Lawrence Ber
|Contact: David Cameron|
Harvard Medical School