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Synthesizing collagen for drug design and disease treatments

Program defines stable sequences for synthesis, could help fight disease, design drugs
October 16, 2012

A program developed at Rice University details stable forms of collagen proteins for synthesis in the lab. The ability to synthesize custom collagen could lead to better drug design and treatment of disease. The colored portion of the molecule in this illustration shows positively charged lysine and negatively charged aspartate interacting in the required axial geometry that stabilizes the triple helix. (Credit: Hartgerink Lab/Rice University)

In a development that could lead to better drug design and new treatments for disease, Rice University researchers have made a major step toward synthesizing custom collagen, the fibrous protein that binds cells together into organs and tissues.

Jeffrey Hartgerink, an associate professor of chemistry and of bioengineering, and his former graduate student Jorge Fallas, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University… read more

Synthespians more prevalent in future films

August 19, 2001

Newly developed computer tools are allowing filmmakers to add synthespians (virtual actors) into the action. New technology for digitally modeling hair, cloth, skin and muscles will make digital humans even more prevalent and indistinguishable from the flesh-and-blood kind over the next year.

Synthetic and biological nanoparticles combined to produce new metamaterials

January 9, 2013

Two different protein cages, cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (blue) and Pyrococcus furiosus ferritin (red), can be used to guide the assembly of binary nanoparticles superlattices through tunable electrostatic interactions with charged gold nanoparticles (yellow). (Credit: Aalto University)

Aalto University scientists have organized synthetic and biological building blocks in a single structure — combining virus particles (and other protein cages) with inorganic nanoparticles to form crystalline layer structures, or superlattices.

The research aims to develop hierarchically structured nanomaterials with tunable optical, magnetic, electronic and catalytic properties. Such nanomaterials are important for applications in sensing, optics, electronics and drug delivery.

By generating biohybrid 3D superlattices of nanoparticles and proteins,… read more

Synthetic biologists reject controversial guidelines

May 24, 2006

Researchers in the new field of synthetic biology have pledged to develop better tools to identify anyone trying to order the DNA needed to make deadly pathogens. But at the Synthetic Biology 2.0 meeting in Berkeley, California, they decided against adopting a controversial code of conduct intended to prevent their technologies being used to make new bioweapons.

Synthetic biologists vs. conservationists

The unintended consequences of tinkering with nature
April 18, 2013

This is a gastric-brooding frog, Rheobatrachus silus, giving oral birth in the lab of Mike Tyler of the University of Adelaide (credit: Mike Tyler/University of Adelaide)

At a first-of-its-kind meeting, held on April 9–11 at the University of Cambridge, leading conservationists and synthetic biologists discussed how synthetic biology could be used to benefit the planet, Nature News reports.

Example might include producing heat-tolerant coral reefs, pollution-sensing soil microbes, ruminant gut microbes that don’t belch methane, and helping frogs to overcome chytridiomycosis, the fungal disease threatening amphibians worldwide that is thought to have contributed to… read more

Synthetic biology could replace oil for chemical industry

September 15, 2011

Vats of blue-green algae could one day replace oil wells in producing raw materials for the chemical industry, a UC Davis chemist predicts.

Shota Atsumi, a UC Davis assistant professor of chemistry, is using synthetic biology to create cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), which convert carbon dioxide in the air into complex hydrocarbons. Cyanobacteria are single-celled organisms that, like green plants, can use… read more

Synthetic biology on ordinary paper: a new operating system

A tiny paper color test for a strain-specific Ebola virus, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or other pathogens --- no lab required
October 24, 2014

Wyss Institute scientists have embedded effective synthetic gene networks in pocket-sized slips of paper. An array of RNA–activated sensors uses visible color changing proteins to indicate presence of a targeted RNA, capable of identifying pathogens such as antibiotic–resistant bacteria and strain–specific Ebola virus. (Credit: Harvard's Wyss Institute)

Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering announced Thursday (Oct. 23) a way to allow complex cellular recognition reactions to proceed outside of living cells, using pocket-sized slips of paper.

Imagine inexpensive, shippable, and accurate test kits using a pocket-sized paper diagnostic tool using saliva or a drop of blood to identify specific disease or infection — a feat that could be accomplished anywhere in the world, within minutes and… read more

Synthetic biology startup launchpad announced by Singularity University

March 28, 2012


Singularity University (SU) is partnering with Triple Ring Technologies to launch a pilot program whose mission is to “help great synthetic biology ideas turn into startup companies.”

“Promising entrepreneurs with great ideas will be intensively mentored over a 4-month period to develop exciting products and services,” according to the SU announcement. The program will run from May to August 2012 in the San… read more

Synthetic Biology Under Government Surveillance … and Liking It?

July 6, 2007

George Church, director of Harvard’s Center for Medical Genetics, feels that synthetic biologists ought to be under government surveillance — and if they don’t like it, they should pick another field.

Synthetic blood created by British scientists could be used in transfusions in just two years

October 28, 2011

Artificial blood created from stem cells could be tested within two years, suggest Edinburgh and Bristol university researchers, who have made billions of red blood cells from stem cells taken from bone marrow and say the process could provide industrial-scale quantities of blood.

The scientists believe it will transform transfusions by preventing hospital shortages, and save thousands of lives on battlefields and at the scene of car crashes. Heart… read more

Synthetic cells get together to make electronics

June 18, 2009

A network of artificial cells that work together to act as a rectifier (AC to DC converter) has been built by researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Like real cells, the protocells are droplets of watery fluid enclosed in an oily membrane, but they can fuse together, forming unidirectional electronic circuits.

The droplet networks could be used as an… read more

Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

December 18, 2007

Researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA.

Scientists in Maryland have already built the world’s first entirely handcrafted chromosome, containing all the instructions a microbe needs to live and reproduce.

Some experts are worried that a few maverick companies are already gaining monopoly control over the core “operating system” for artificial life and are poised to become… read more

Synthetic Molecule Makes Cancer Cells Commit Suicide

November 14, 2007
Triggering cancer cells

Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have developed a small molecule that can turn the survival signal for a variety of cancer cells into a death signal. The molecule mimics the activity of Smac, a protein that triggers the suicide of some types of cancer cells.

Synthetic oscillating gel ‘acts alive’

A synthetic material rebuilds itself through chemical communication, similar to bacteria
January 15, 2013
Oscillating gel pieces will move back together after being sliced

Synthetic self-moving gels can “act alive” and mimic primitive biological communication, University of Pittsburgh researchers have found.

The synthetic system can reconfigure itself through a combination of chemical communication and interaction with light.

“This is the closest system to the ultimate self- recombining material, which can be divided into separated parts and the parts move autonomously to assemble into a structure resembling the original,… read more

Synthetic proteins enable the growth of living cells

January 7, 2011

Novel proteins

In a groundbreaking achievement that could help scientists “build” new biological systems, Princeton University scientists have constructed for the first time artificial proteins that enable the growth of living cells.

The team of researchers created genetic sequences never before seen in nature, and the scientists showed that they can produce substances that sustain life in cells almost as readily as proteins produced by nature’s own toolkit.

“What we… read more

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