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Easily 're-programmable cells' could be key in creation of new life forms
Date:11/7/2011

ms work -- to give scientists the power to create biological systems. The scientists will start the work by attempting to make e.coli bacteria much more easy to program.

Professor Krasnogor added: "This EPSRC Leadership Fellowship will allow me to transfer my expertise in Computer Science and informatics into the wet lab.

"Currently, each time we need a cell that will perform a certain new function we have to recreate it from scratch which is a long and laborious process. Most people think all we have to do to modify behaviour is to modify a cell's DNA but it's not as simple as that -- we usually find we get the wrong behaviour and then we are back to square one. If we succeed with this AUdACiOuS project, in five years time, we will be programming bacterial cells in the computer and compiling and storing its program into these new cells so they can readily execute them.

"Like for a computer, we are trying to create a basic operating system for a biological cell."

Among the most fundamental challenges facing the scientists will be developing new computer models that more accurately predict the behaviour of cells in the laboratory.

Scientists can already programme individual cells to complete certain tasks but scaling up to create a larger organism is trickier.

The creation of more sophisticated computer modelling programmes and a cell that could be re-programmed to fulfil any function without having to go back to the drawing board each time could largely remove the trial and error approach currently taken and allow synthetic biology research to take a significant leap forward.

The technology could be used in a whole range of applications where being able to modify the behaviour of organisms could be advantageous. In the long run, this includes the creation of new microorganisms that could help to clean the environment for example by capturing carbon from the burning of fossil fuel or removing contaminant
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Contact: Emma Thorne
emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk
44-011-595-15793
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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