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Synthetic biology ‘control circuits’ could regulate cells like a thermostat

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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Synthetic biology offers a vision for the future of medicine, where cells could be re-engineered to fight diseases such as cancer and diabetes. For this to happen, scientists use viruses to infect and transfer new properties to cells so they behave in a certain way. But there hasn’t been a reliable method to ensure all cells behave in the same way, even if they are not infected uniformly—until now.

In a paper published…in the journal Nature Biotechnology, University Distinguished Professor Eduardo Sontag at Northeastern and his colleagues describe a novel synthetic biology technique they developed to give researchers more control over the process than ever before.

“It’s just like a thermostat,” Sontag said. “If the room is too hot, it may turn on the air conditioner. If it’s too cold, it may turn on the heating. There is a feedback mechanism that regulates the temperature. In the same way, you build circuits to try to regulate things in the cell.”

That’s precisely what his new method allows for. When the virus is inserted into cells, genes within the cell measure up to one another and self-regulate so the resulting behavior is the same, as if the infection had spread more evenly.

Editor’s note: Read the full study (behind paywall)

Read full, original post: Novel synthetic biology technique could lead to breakthroughs in disease treatment

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