Artificial photosynthesis: Synthetic chloroplasts as solar-powered drug factories

| | May 14, 2020
photosynthesis
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

There’s a new way to eat carbon dioxide. Researchers have built an artificial version of a chloroplast, the photosynthetic structures inside plant cells. It uses sunlight and a laboratory-designed chemical pathway to turn CO2 into sugar.

Artificial photosynthesis could be used to drive tiny, non-living, solar-powered factories that churn out therapeutic drugs …. The work was published in Science on 7 May.

Although it’s just a proof of principle, it’s already possible to think of ways in which the artificial chloroplasts could be put to work, the authors say. Because of advances in synthetic biology, microbes can now be engineered to churn out useful molecules such as pharmaceutical drugs.

Related article:  Newly identified protein could help safeguard plants against climate change

They might be able to do so more efficiently than microbes can, says Kate Adamala, a synthetic biologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “Natural cells spend a lot of energy on staying alive, while synthetic [systems] do not need to grow, reproduce or maintain any life-like functions,” she says.

But there are problems to address before these applications can become reality. For example, the spinach membranes within the artificial chloroplasts function for just a few hours before they begin to degrade, limiting the working life of the system.

Read the original post

Share via
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend