Papers of the Week – 20th November 2017

Welcome to our pick of papers and articles from last week. These are a collection of the synthetic biology papers that have captured our attention 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. See last week’s papers here.

Thirty-second nucleic acid extraction

Rapid extraction of nucleic acids is now achievable in just 30 seconds using untreated paper. The researchers hope it can save other scientists’ time and efforts collecting samples of DNA and RNA, particularly out in the field. This paper shows that sometimes the best ideas are right in front of you.

The method of nucleic acid detection from: How easy is that?


Although not technically published online within this week’s timeframe, we think this paper is very exciting. The antibiotic activity of a series of diaminopyridine molecules was controlled by visible light using an azobenzene molecular photoswitch. The key achievements are moving the activation from UV to visible wavelengths and successful activation in the presence of bacteria. This could reduce side effects of antibiotics and hopefully help the cause of overcoming antibiotic resistance.

Expanding CRISPR toolbox: AID, ABE and REPAIR

Three new additions to the “CRISPR toolbox” have been published this week: yes, THREE. CRISPR-AID is a high-throughput, one-step method of altering metabolic networks. Simple manipulation of regulatory networks could benefit the large-scale production of metabolic outputs from micro-organisms such as biofuels, pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

CRISPR-ABE is an adenine base editor version of the classic gene editing tool. Many genetic diseases occur due to the incorrect placement of a cytosine rather than a guanine base, and this tool has the potential to edit these SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) out and remove the disease entirely.

A team of researchers at MIT have developed a CRISPR system which does RNA editing for programmable adenine to inosine replacement (REPAIR). This was achieved in mammalian cells and shows a lot of promise for potential therapeutic uses in the future.

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