290298 Building the Biotechnology Toolbox: At the Intersection of Biofabrication and Synthetic Biology

Tuesday, October 30, 2012: 4:55 PM
Allegheny I (Westin )
William E. Bentley, Fischell Department of Bioengineering, University of Maryland, College Park, MD

Synthetic biology provides a means for articulating concepts into new products and products. Its toolbox is extensive, including the ability to create synthetic genomes and tailor their regulation. Early successes augmented the cell’s biosynthetic capacity and rewired its regulation, transforming our ability to produce an array of small molecules and fully functional therapeutic proteins at high yield. Also, the theoretical formalisms of metabolic engineering provide a basis for optimally routing its biochemical flux.  These activities focused largely on the cell’s intracellular biochemical network and rely less on molecular cues from a cell’s immediate surroundings. Bacterial quorum sensing (QS) has enabled a reexamination of metabolic flux and regulation by hardwiring population-scale biological function to extracellular cues. Regulatory and fabrication modules are feasible, owing to a few relatively simple QS signal transduction cascades. QS represents a model for connecting environmental cues for the regulation of biosynthesis; a new context for entirely new products and processes that consider the individual or small populations of cells. Indeed, the intersection of QS and synthetic biology is just beginning to yield new commercialized processes and products - and its concepts are no longer limited to the cell.  On an analogous track, biofabrication is an assembly process that relies less on the cell and more on enzymatic, self assembly, and stimuli responsive properties of the various building blocks. Also, it enables connectivity to microfabricated electronics. There exists, therefore, a potential bridge between electronics and synthetic biology that is thus far largely untapped. We will describe our efforts to bride this gap – using quorum sensing as a model pathway.

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