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)

Healthcare goes 3D (Day 207)

Mesoporous silica rods
Mesoporous silica rods spontaneously assemble to form a porous 3D scaffold, as seen in this SEM image. The 3D scaffold has many nooks and crannies and is large enough to house tens of millions of recruited immune cells. Image: Harvard

Some diseases like cancer carry more than one jeopardy.

Untreated it causes harm and threatens life. Treatment too carries its own risks.

And if you’re unlucky enough to contract cancers such as lymphomas and leukaemias, even the body’s own natural defences become less effective.

Ways to stimulate the body’s immune system has been the focus of researchers at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

And they’ve had success with a non-surgical injection of programmable biomaterial that spontaneously assembles in vivo to activate a host’s immune cells into a 3D structure which can help fight and even contribute to the prevention of cancer and infectious diseases such as HIV.

Continue reading Healthcare goes 3D (Day 207)