Papers of the Week – 13th November 2017

Welcome to our pick of papers and articles from this week. These are a collection of the synthetic biology papers that have captured our attention over this week and that we think you should know about. Maybe you’ve seen some others you’d like to tell us about. Send us a comment or tweet us at @synbiobydesign.

Gene editing in vivo

This one isn’t a paper, it’s more of an update, but what an incredible update to science and synthetic biology. An adult human has received gene editing for a genetic disease via zinc finger nucleases. There was a lot of speculation on the future of this technology as CRISPR spread across the globe, but this has definitely silenced the critics for the time being!

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/human-has-been-injected-gene-editing-tools-cure-his-disabling-disease-here-s-what-you

The future of bio-engineering

Covering a vast range of issues that may arise in the coming years in bio-engineering, this paper highlights 20 key things that will affect the field in the future. This is also a handy way of finding out different areas of synbio research you may not have known about already.

https://elifesciences.org/articles/30247

CRISPR patent wars update

A similar opinion article in Science this week talks about the patent war in CRISPR technology and the issues surrounding this type of disagreement in science.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6365/874

Skin replacement for 7 year old boy

You may have already seen this amazing feat of science in the news over the last few weeks, but now it has been published in an academic paper in nature. Scientists and doctors in Modena, Italy used stem cells to replace 80% of the epidermal skin of a boy with junctional epidermolysis bullosa – a rare skin condition that causes the epidermis to come away from the dermis and hypodermis below, resulting in painful blistering.

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature24487

A sheet of epidermal cells grown in culture. From: https://www.nature.com/news/skin-regeneration-with-insights-1.22965

Synthetic microbial consortia

A consortium of synthetic E. coli strains have been used to produce pure translation machinery consisting of 34 proteins in a single culturing, lysis and purification procedure. A huge step forward for synbio in designing microbial consortia.

https://www.nature.com/articles/nchembio.2514

Delivering Cas9 to live cells

This paper from MIT presents a novel method of gene editing in liver cells using re-engineered guide RNAs and Cas9 mRNA. Finally, an efficient way to deliver Cas9 to live cells?

https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.4005

Stabilising a bi-stable genetic toggle switch at an unstable equilibrium point

Researchers in Paris constructed and characterised a genetic toggle switch in E. coli cells that displays bi-stable behaviour which they then stabilised around its unstable equilibrium point using an external, in silico feedback controller. This implementation of control theory may turn out to be a big step forward for reliability and predictability in genetic circuits. The authors put this paper in the field of cybergenetics, but it definitely also falls into synthetic biology.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-01498-0

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