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Vibrio natriegens: Low-cost microbe could speed biological discovery

Date: 16.2.2024 

Cornell University researchers have created a new version of a microbe to compete economically with E. coli – a bacteria commonly used as a research tool due to its ability to synthesize proteins – to conduct low-cost and scalable synthetic biological experiments.

Kredit: Bryce Brownfield/Cornell University.As an inexpensive multiplier – much like having a photocopier in a test tube – the bacteria Vibrio natriegens could help labs test protein variants for creation of pharmaceuticals, synthetic fuels and sustainable compounds that battle weeds or pests. The microbe can work effectively without costly incubators, shakers or deep freezers and can be engineered within hours.

"It's really easy to produce," said lead author David Specht, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Buz Barstow, assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering.

"As scientists, we don't often know precisely what those regulatory or molecular sequences should be to achieve our goals," said Barstow. "So, we must test a lot of variants, and Vibrio natriegens allows researchers to scale up that process of testing."

The microbe V. natriegens is not complicated, Specht said. "It's so simple to make that someone with limited resources – like high school labs, home inventors or startup biological businesses – can do it," he said.

Image source: Bryce Brownfield/Cornell University.





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