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  • New Method Simplifies Synthetic Chromosome Construction

    Click image for larger versionName:	Low-Res_Synthetic_Chromosomes_Hero_Dornsife.jpgViews:	0Size:	86.0 KBID:	325332
    (Credit: iStock Photo)



    Researchers at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science have developed a new technique that could transform the field of synthetic biology. The method, named CReATiNG (Cloning Reprogramming and Assembling Tiled Natural Genomic DNA), presents a more straightforward and cost-effective way of constructing synthetic chromosomes. This innovation holds potential for numerous applications, including in medicine, biotechnology, biofuel production, and space exploration.

    The CReATiNG Technique: A Shift in Synthetic Biology
    CReATiNG operates by cloning and reassembling natural DNA segments from yeast. This process allows scientists to create synthetic chromosomes that can supplant the native ones in cells. One of the key features of this method is its ability to merge chromosomes from various yeast strains and species, modify chromosome structures, and concurrently delete multiple genes.

    Ian Ehrenreich, a professor of biological sciences at USC Dornsife and the lead researcher, highlights the significance of this advancement. He states, “With CReATiNG, we can genetically reprogram organisms in complex ways previously deemed impossible, even with new tools like CRISPR. This opens up a world of possibilities in synthetic biology, enhancing our fundamental understanding of life and paving the way for groundbreaking applications.” This quote underscores the method's potential in reshaping genetic engineering.

    The findings from this research were published in Nature Communications on December 20.

    Advantages of CReATiNG
    Synthetic biology, particularly the emerging field of synthetic genomics, involves synthesizing whole chromosomes or entire genomes. Traditionally, this process requires assembling chromosomes from chemically synthesized DNA pieces, a labor-intensive and costly procedure. CReATiNG offers an alternative by utilizing natural DNA pieces to assemble whole chromosomes, as explained by Agilent postdoctoral fellow Alessandro Coradini, the study's first author.

    This method not only simplifies the research process but also reduces costs and technical barriers, thereby making advanced genetic research more accessible. It's expected to unlock new solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in science and medicine today.

    Broad Applications of CReATiNG
    The potential applications of CReATiNG are vast and varied. In the fields of medicine and biotechnology, it could enhance the efficient production of pharmaceuticals and biofuels. Additionally, it might aid in the development of cell therapies for diseases like cancer and contribute to environmental bioremediation techniques, such as engineering bacteria that consume pollutants.

    An intriguing prospect of CReATiNG is its potential use in aiding human habitation in space or other extreme environments. By developing microorganisms or plants that could thrive in space stations or during long-distance space travel, CReATiNG could play a pivotal role in space exploration. However, the researchers caution that this application requires substantial future research.

    One notable finding of the study is the discovery that rearranging chromosome segments in yeast can significantly alter their growth rates. Some modifications resulted in up to a 68% change in growth speed. This finding emphasizes the profound impact of genetic structure on biological function and opens new avenues for research in this field.

    In conclusion, CReATiNG represents a significant step forward in synthetic biology, offering new possibilities for scientific advancement and practical applications in various fields.

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