Bacteria on a factory scale (Day 233)

Genetic engineering and genetic modification are tools that have been carefully and cautiously introduced around the world.

There are varying degrees of resistance to it use in different countries, but this hasn’t stopped some nations and researchers exploring the opportunities.

Recent research includes the genetic engineering of a malaria parasite to act as a vaccine, and of course there is the more wide-scale introduction of genetically modified crops to improve yields.

Ecoli
Wyss Institute researchers have genetically modified E. coli bacteria to produce up to 30–fold more quantities of chemicals at a thousand–fold faster rate than previously possible. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University and Steve Gschmeissner/SPL

One of the latest developments includes modification of bacteria in such a way that they can be programmed to produce specific chemicals resulting from their metabolic processes, and how much of it.

The work has been pioneered by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and Harvard Medical School.

In principle, their work could result in future chemical factories consisting of colonies of genetically engineered bacteria.

The Wyss Institute team has been able to trick the bacteria into self–eliminating the cells that are not high–output performers, ridding the entire process of the need for human and technological monitoring to make sure the bacteria are producing efficiently, and therefore hugely reducing the overall timescale of chemical production. Continue reading Bacteria on a factory scale (Day 233)

Training the microbe (Day 111)

BacteriaLots of IChemE Members will be aware of the many special interest groups established to help advance the chemical engineering profession and its many branches.

One of the most active groups is IChemE’s Biochemical Engineering Special Interest Groups. Sharing best practice, supporting young professionals and generally promoting the discipline are all part of their work, which includes events on topics like synthetic biology and multi-disciplinary meetings for young researchers.

Continue reading Training the microbe (Day 111)

‘Little-game’ hunters (Day 84)

Most of us are familiar and fascinated with ‘big-game’ animals like rhinos, elephants and tigers. Thankfully, they are now protected animals and their numbers have stabilised, but remain perilously low. For instance only around 3,000 tigers remain the in the wild.

By contrast, there are tens of millions of species of bacteria living in the wild. But even these are hard to capture and some are just as elusive as a Siberian Tiger.

Panda
Pandas are not the only animals difficult to breed in captivity – ‘wild’ bacteria pose similar problems.

Continue reading ‘Little-game’ hunters (Day 84)