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Celebrating Synthetic Biology


With so many recent advances in synthetic biology, GT sat down to envision a world where things like removing and adding genes, genetic toggle switches, and altered gene function were the norm. Using some of our favorite model organisms, here are a few synthetic biology accomplishments we’ll be looking for in the coming years.

Late night at the lab? Now you don’t have to worry about coming
in late with these new and improved rooster alarms. Sure, no one wants to wake up to a crowing rooster every day — but these roosters come equipped with a genetic toggle switch to turn their crowing instinct on and off. Simply give your rooster a special feed mix to turn on the crowing gene — but don’t forget to turn it off when you travel, or your neighbors could get awfully cranky.

We’ve all seen zebrafish with a particular gene fluorescently tagged to glow when it’s expressed. But why not tweak the organism to glow all the time? With oil prices climbing higher and higher, you’ll need a cheap light source for your lab. These glowing fish are sure to do the trick. Like Motel 6, they’ll leave the light on for you.

Wouldn’t it be great if your mosquito research didn’t include the risk of being covered in itchy red welts? These special mosquitoes have had their gene function altered so they don’t secrete that itch-inducing fluid into your skin — and as an added bonus, the new gene function has them suck out fat instead of blood. It’s a free mini-liposuction. You just have to get used to not swatting and killing them as they home in on their prey.

Postdocs are a great source of cheap labor, but couldn’t you always do with a few more? Scientists find a way to take the regeneration gene out of planarian worms and successfully insert it into your favorite postdoc. Don’t be squeamish about cutting them in half: the more times you do it, the more fully regenerated postdoc workers you get!



The Scan

Driving Malaria-Carrying Mosquitoes Down

Researchers from the UK and Italy have tested a gene drive for mosquitoes to limit the spread of malaria, NPR reports.

Office Space to Lab Space

The New York Times writes that some empty office spaces are transforming into lab spaces.

Prion Pause to Investigate

Science reports that a moratorium on prion research has been imposed at French public research institutions.

Genome Research Papers on Gut Microbe Antibiotic Response, Single-Cell RNA-Seq Clues to Metabolism, More

In Genome Research this week: gut microbial response to antibiotic treatment, approach to gauge metabolic features from single-cell RNA sequencing, and more.