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Bar-coding bacteriophages: New method could unleash powerful biotechnology applications

Date: 24.1.2024 

Barcodes at the supermarket allow fast and easy product identification, often including such valuable information as location, quantity, and tracking.

Kredit: Piya et al. (2024), PLOS Biology.Now, a rapid gene labeling or characterization scheme for bacteria-infecting viruses known as bacteriophages, or phages, has been developed for similar purposes by researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

Based on the Nobel-Prize-winning CRISPR gene-editing technology, the scientists' method allowed them to understand what parts of a phage genome are essential to its function. Once nonessential regions are identified, barcodes in these regions would allow investigators and clinicians to quickly identify and track different phages in diverse settings. Brought to scale, the method stands to unlock powerful biotechnology applications relevant to agriculture, the environment, human health, and more.

For example, with the new barcoding method, investigators would be able to track phages while they are being used to manipulate the microbiome around plant roots to enhance plant growth in drought conditions or without the use of fertilizers. They could also track barcoded phages being used to treat serious conditions like antibiotic-resistant infections.

Image source: Piya et al. (2024), PLOS Biology.





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