Episode Summary

Bacterial cells with their genomes removed can still be active and useful!

Microbe of the Episode

Microbe of the episode: Rosavirus A.

Jesse's Takeaways

Microbes have amazing biochemical transformation abilities, creating and breaking down many compounds and proteins. This makes them great candidates for many purposes, in medicine, industry, and environmental remediation. In some of these purposes, though, there are risks associated with adding foreign microbes, especially engineered ones, that can replicate themselves and possibly persist, into new places.

To avoid this risk, this study turns intact bacteria into SimCells, simplified entities with most of their genetic material removed, leaving only the proteins and other components and just enough DNA to accomplish desired tasks. These SimCells were able to continue performing tasks for around 10 days before running out of the cellular resources needed to keep going. One of these tasks was producing a compound that damaged cancer cells in a dish but left non-cancerous cells unharmed.

Journal Paper

Fan C, Davison PA, Habgood R, Zeng H, Decker CM, Salazar MG, Lueangwattanapong K, Townley HE, Yang A, Thompson IP, Ye H, Cui Z, Schmidt F, Hunter CN, Huang WE. 2020. Chromosome-free bacterial cells are safe and programmable platforms for synthetic biology. Proc Natl Acad Sci 117:6752–6761.

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