Papers of the Week 22nd January 2018

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.

The yeast proteome quantified

A useful resource for the yeast synthetic biology community has arisen from the pooling together of 21 S. cerevisiae protein abundance datasets. These have been normalised and converted to “molecules per cell” estimates. Additionally, the authors found that protein tags only impact protein abundance around 20% of the time, and also studied changes in protein abundances as a result of various stresses.

3D bioprinting silk

This review summarises the potential of silk as a bioink material for tissue engineering, including the requirements for 3D bioprinting, and the advantages of silk over other polymers. Challenges to be addressed include low concentrations resulting in non-Newtonian behaviour unsuitable for printing, the lack of degradation of spider silk at physiological temperatures and the formation of insoluble complexes.

New insights into microbial defence systems against phages

Our knowledge of microbial antiphage defences, which gave us the game-changing technology, CRISPR-Cas9, has been greatly expanded by Doron et al in a new study. 9 new antiphage defence mechanisms and a antiplasmid system were discovered enriched in “defence islands” and experimentally verified in E. coli and B. subtilis.

Engineering chlorophyll in E. coli

We have moved a step closer to engineering photosynthesis by the discovery of the minimum set of enzymes necessary to synthesise chlorophyll. The bottom-up construction of the pathway included characterising the more obscure cyclase step and insertion of the genetic module  in E. coli.

Remote-controlled neural drug delivery implant

Although perhaps on the edge of the synthetic biology remit – refer to our article ‘What is Synthetic Biology?’ for what some of us consider the field to be – this paper is an exciting medical application of novel technology. The miniaturised neural drug delivery system (a.k.a. MiNDS) is an implant which allows administration of very small quantities of drug to a specific area of the brain. This method is for long term treatments to eliminate the need for a systemic drug and the risk of associated toxicity.

Is lab-grown meat the future?

This podcast explains how meat grown in a lab could be the future. An interesting topic to think about and discuss as the world becomes more conscious of how food is sourced.

PODCAST: Q&A with Paul Shapiro, author of Clean Meat

Data storage and retrieval in DNA – or – bacterial librarians

DNA has long been hailed as the solution to the data storage problem. A new paper on arXiv proposes a method for retrieving the information stored in DNA using a bacterial duo: a non-motile species for storing the information and a motile species for retrieving the information when needed. The proposal is based on the communication and conjugation abilities of bacteria for the exchange of plasmids (the stored information) and chemotaxis abilities for having the motile bacteria correctly locate the bacteria with the stored information. A “Hello World” demonstration is carried out experimentally using two different E. coli strains.

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