TORONTO – An international research consortium has made new key advances towards the assembly of a complete artificial genome of yeast, an important model of research in synthetic biology with potentially many industrial and medical applications.
The results of this work contained in seven studies published Thursday in the American journal Science also help scientists to better understand the genetic components essential to life.
200 Researchers Working On The Project
The 200 researchers working on the yeast synthetic genome project, called Sc2.0, and led by Joel Bader, a professor of biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, had already produced a synthetic chromosome of this unicellular microscopic fungus In 2014. They have now produced five more, a third of the total.
The genome of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) consists of sixteen chromosomes, cellular structures containing the genetic information and bearing the genes that are transmitted from generation to generation.
The cells of this organism also have a large number of similarities with human cells.
“These results represent a major step towards the creation of the first synthetic complex organism,” the scientists said.
Several other synthetic chromosomes are being developed and these researchers hope to assemble and insert the first artificial genome into a yeast cell within two years. They also make a 17th chromosome from scratch, which will contain certain genetic information.
– Creation of new antibiotics –
“This work paves the way for the design of synthetic genomes to meet unmet medical and industrial needs, such as the creation of new enzymes or antibiotics,” says Jef Boeke, director of the Institute of Genetic Systems ISG) at the Langone University Hospital Center in New York, one of the principal authors.
This research “can solve key questions about the nature of genetic machinery by reprogramming chromosomes in living cells,” he said.
Among other applications of these advances, scientists cite greater capabilities in gene therapy, currently limited to the insertion of a single gene. It may thus be possible to introduce a group of genes to treat certain pathologies.
One of these seven studies sets out the procedures to be followed to create the complete synthetic genome of baker’s yeast.
Another study provides the first 3D structure of several artificial chromosomes.
A large number of technologies and software developed under the Sc2.0 project are also used in the GPr-write project, a similar initiative to synthesize all of the 46 chromosomes that make up the human genome in the next decade As well as those of plants.
– Understanding diseases –
“The progress made in the Sc2.0 project will undoubtedly advance our understanding of the fundamental biological processes and functioning of the genome,” an editorial published in Science Krishna Kannan and Daniel Gibson of Synthetic Genomics Inc. and Synthetic Genomics, who did not participate in this research.
“Because of this, it is possible to design models of yeast strains with a high degree of success,” they say.
According to these two scientists “such synthetic organisms could be exploited as models for understanding human diseases, identifying therapeutic targets for treating diseases and producing drugs.”
Last January, US researchers at the Scripps Research Institute announced that they had manufactured the first stable form of life with an inserted artificial DNA of E. coli microbes.
These semi-artificial organisms are viable enough to be used as biological machines to make new types of proteins that do not exist in nature, according to these scientists whose work has been published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences. Science