It seems like everything these days can be customized to suit a particular need or want — everything from cars, shoes, and clothes, to bacteria. Synthetic biologists are working to create novel bacteria for all kinds of industrial uses, like organisms that could secrete biofuels or clean up oil spills, says the Boston Globe's Carolyn Johnson. But at Harvard Medical School, geneticist George Church is taking a different approach — instead of trying to create his own bacteria from scratch, his lab has come up with technology that will allow for "broad-brush genome editing of an entire organism," Johnson says. Church hopes to create organisms that can secrete amino acids for industrial uses, and says he foresees the development of a bacteria that is resistant to viruses that can sometimes contaminate the production of biotech drugs or food products. "Instead of trying to write the genome, Church has been developing techniques that can enable large-scale genome editing — essentially tools that will be able to insert, delete, or tweak an organism's abilities, such as producing a useful chemical or vitamin, or evading infection," Johnson says.
A Little Tweak Here, Another There
Aug 30, 2011