viernes, 17 de julio de 2015

The Future of Synthetic Biology: Reading and Writing DNA Using Nanopores

Biology is nothing more than a computational system. Granted, it’s far more sophisticated than any other computer available to us today, but we’re slowly beginning to learn how to read and write DNA as we would with code. Thanks to a group of researcher fellows of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), we’ve now taken one extra step towards a future of synthetic biology.

Published on IEEE Access, researchers used nanopores – a tiny hole inside of a membrane that allows singular molecules of DNA to pass through – in order to read DNA and proteins, and subsequently write new DNA by inserting mini-genes into mammalian cells.

In conclusion, the future is brilliant, if you think small and do a bit more research. Nanopores can be used to both READ: detect and sequence DNA and sense proteins, and WRITE DNA into cells. These tools will provide methods to explore areas of biology either impractical to reach, or at least logistically intractable.” – IEEE Study

Photo Credit: IEEE / Genetic Literacy Project
Not only is this breakthrough research helping us better understand our own biology, but is equally bringing everyone else along for the ride. By simplifying the methodological ability to sequence single-cell DNA using nanopores, these researchers have provided molecular and sub-molecular analysis within reach for all bench-top scientists and clinical labs outside of the confines of genomics or spectrometry specialists.

But don’t jump off your seats just yet in celebration, because more research is needed for synthetic biology to make a significant impact.

Prospects for synthetic biology (and manufacturing) using nanopores to program cells (or micelles) and deliver materials are especially alluring. Chemical processing generally becomes more efficient in a microreactor because mass transport limitations are practically eliminated. However, the synthesis, so far, has been focused at a single cell or few nano-reactor level; it needs to be scaled up.” – IEEE Study

FUTURE IMPLICATIONS
The precision of molecular configuration of ions passing through the pores of membranes points to a future of tiny research making extremely large impacts on the health of society. The future of medicine will largely rely on our ability to read and write DNA like code in order to upgrade our bio-computational systems against fatal diseases. By using nanopores as a means of reading and writing DNA, we are steadily revealing the secrets of our own biology, consequently unlocking future possibilities of enhancing our longevity.


ORIGINAL: Serious Wonder
BY B.J. MURPHY

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