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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Synthetic Biologists Develop Genetic Firewall To Control New Life Forms


For the new research, labs run by George Church of Harvard University and Farren Isaacs of Yale University developed strains of E. coli bacteria that contain DNA for a synthetic amino acid and also require a synthetic amino acid to survive. 

Because the amino acids do not exist naturally, if the GMOs escaped from a lab or an agricultural area they would not be able to survive, said Isaacs, who is a professor of molecular biology.

Although the two labs created the firewall in bacteria, the same principles can be applied to plants and animals, according to Church, a genomics researcher at Harvard Medical School. "I think we are moving in that direction," he said.

Bioengineers are developing novel organisms which are used in factories to create novel enzymes, biofuels and pharmaceutical drugs.

Novel crops can be created to survive in harsh conditions and to resist pests. Researchers can also create organisms to clean up toxic waste.

"I don't want to be alarmist or anything, but I think the point is that these organisms do spread," according to Church.

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