Home pagePress monitoringHow to build an artificial nano-factory to power our futures

How to build an artificial nano-factory to power our futures

Date: 19.6.2017 

Many bacteria contain little factories for different purposes. They can make sugars from carbon dioxide to fuel life, or digest certain compounds that would be toxic for the cell, if the digestion took place outside of these factories. 
Kredit: Seth Axen, Markus Sutter, Sarah Newnham, Clement Aussignargues, and Cheryl Kerfel, via Kerfeld lab

Manuel Sommer is studying how the factories building sugar from carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, called carboxysomes, are built and work.

This is a step toward designing new kinds of factories, based on their natural cousins, that could produce synthetic materials, like fragrances, or the building blocks for green fuels or products used to diagnose diseases. The thing is, bacteria are incredibly diverse, found in every environment, from polar ice to hot springs, and carboxysome-based structures can be just as diverse in what they can do.

Part of the problem in building synthetic carboxysomes has been identifying the essential building blocks. And, for the first time, Manuel and the Kerfeld lab have analyzed over 200 sets of genes from different cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae that contain carboxysomes, taking us closer to understanding these essentials.

"Carboxysomes, which are found in cyanobacteria, specialize in photosynthesis. And there is so much research on cyanobacteria already, which makes them easy to study."

"This flood of information makes such carboxysomes a good target for producing a complete inventory of factory parts. Then we can devise strategies to re-engineer them into synthetic factories." The idea is to use the synthetic carboxysome copies to create renewable materials, stuff they don't usually make (see below), inside of bacteria that have been tamed for biotech use.

 


 

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