Discovery to fuel bio-industrial revolution

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 03, 2013 08:10 hrs

London, Feb 3 (IANS) A breakthrough could fuel a bio-industrial revolution by slashing the time it takes to fabricate cellular parts from days to mere hours.

The discovery could have potential applications in more effective drug delivery, easier mining of minerals and advances in the production of biofuels, say scientists from Imperial College London (ICL).

They have devised a much quicker method that eliminates the need for re-engineering a cell every time they want to make a new part, which is a time-consuming method, the journal Nucleic Acids Research reports.

Paul Freemont, professor and co-director of the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation (CSBI) at Imperial College and principle co-investigator said: "Before the industrial revolution, most items were made by hand, which meant that they were slower to manufacture, more expensive to produce and limited in numbers."

"We are at a similar juncture in synthetic biology, having to test and build each part from scratch, which is a long and slow process. We demonstrate in our study a new method that could help to rapidly scale up the production and testing of biological parts," Freemont added.

Parts made up of DNA are re-engineered by scientists and put into cells to make biological factories. However, a major bottleneck in synthetic biology is the lack of parts from which to build new types of factories.

James Chappell, study co-author from the CSBI, said: "One of the major goals in synthetic biology is to find a way to industrialise our processes so that we can mass produce these biological factories much in the same way that industries such as car manufacturers mass produce vehicles in a factory line."

"This could unlock the potential of this field of science and enable us to develop much more sophisticated devices that could be used to improve many facets of society. Excitingly, our research takes us one step closer to this reality, providing a rapid way of developing new parts," added Chappell.

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