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Current Opinion in Biotechnology

Jonathan L Schmid-Burgk
The bacterial type II Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)-CRISPR Associated (Cas) systems, and in particular Streptococcus pyogenes CRISPR-Cas9, have been broadly applied to edit the genome of bacterial and eukaryotic cells. Cas9, which is an RNA-guided programmable nuclease, is a powerful tool for disrupting protein-coding genes. Cas9 cleaves target sites to generate a double-strand break (DSB) that is repaired via an error-prone repair process, leading to insertion/deletion mutations and gene knockouts...
June 17, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Rocco Romagnuolo, Michael A Laflamme
Because the heart is a poorly regenerative organ, there has been considerable interest in developing novel cell-based approaches to restore lost contractile function after myocardial infarction (MI). While a wide variety of candidate cell types have been tested in animal MI models, the vast majority of clinical trials have used adult stem cell types, usually derived from bone marrow. These studies have generally yielded disappointing results, an outcome that may reflect in part the limited cardiogenic potential of the adult stem cell sources employed...
June 17, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Chelsea K Longwell, Louai Labanieh, Jennifer R Cochran
Emerging technologies are enabling ultra-high-throughput screening of combinatorial enzyme libraries to identify variants with improved properties such as increased activity, altered substrate specificity, and increased stability. Each of these enzyme engineering platforms relies on compartmentalization of reaction components, similar to microtiter plate-based assays which have been commonly used for testing the activity of enzyme variants. The technologies can be broadly divided into three categories according to their spatial segregation strategy: (1) cells as reaction compartments, (2) in vitro compartmentalization via synthetic droplets, and (3) microchambers...
June 15, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Joos Aschenbrenner, Andreas Marx
A multitude of biotechnological techniques used in basic research as well as in clinical diagnostics on an everyday basis depend on DNA polymerases and their intrinsic capability to replicate DNA strands with astoundingly high fidelity. Applications with fundamental importance to modern molecular biology, including the polymerase chain reaction and DNA sequencing, would not be feasible without the advances made in characterizing these enzymes over the course of the last 60 years. Nonetheless, the still growing application scope of DNA polymerases necessitates the identification of novel enzymes with tailor-made properties...
June 12, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Kristen A Lemke, Alireza Aghayee, Randolph S Ashton
Progress in deriving a spectrum of central nervous system cell phenotypes from human pluripotent stem cells has spurred significant advances in in vitro modeling and development of regenerative therapies for neurological disorders. While the clinical impact of these advances is still being evaluated, their integration with advanced tissue engineering methodologies and therapeutic approaches that induce neural circuit plasticity, respectively, remain underexplored frontiers.
June 9, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Gillian Houlihan, Sebastian Arangundy-Franklin, Philipp Holliger
Organic chemistry has systematically probed the chemical determinants of function in nucleic acids by variation to the nucleobase, sugar ring and backbone moieties to build synthetic genetic polymers. Concomitantly, protein engineering has advanced to allow the discovery of polymerases capable of utilizing modified nucleotide analogs. A conjunction of these two lines of investigation in nucleotide chemistry and molecular biology has given rise to a new field of synthetic genetics dedicated to the exploration of the capacity of these novel, synthetic nucleic acids for the storage and propagation of genetic information, for evolution and for crosstalk, that is, information exchange with the natural genetic system...
June 8, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Joshua Lader, Maxine Stachel, Lei Bu
Remarkable strides have been made in the treatment of ischemic heart disease in decades. As the initial loss of cardiomyocytes associated with myocardial infarction serves as an impetus for myocardial remodeling, the ability to replace these cells with healthy counterparts would represent an effective treatment for many forms of cardiovascular disease. The discovery of cardiac stem cells (that can differentiate into multiple lineages) highlighted the possibility for development of cell-based therapeutics to achieve this ultimate goal...
June 4, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Suttinee Poolsup, Chu-Young Kim
It is possible to generate oligonucleotide aptamers for a wide variety of target molecules using a process known as Systematic Evolution of Ligands by Exponential Enrichment. Researchers have successfully generated aptamers which recognize specific metal ions, small chemical compounds, peptides, proteins, saccharides, and even whole cells. Aptamers show much promise as future therapeutics and as drug targeting agents. A particularly active area of aptamer research in the past two years was development of aptamer based cancer therapeutics and development of aptamer based cancer drug delivery systems...
June 2, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Sharon Fleischer, Ron Feiner, Tal Dvir
As cardiac disease takes a higher toll with each passing year, the need for new therapies to deal with the scarcity in heart donors becomes ever more pressing. Cardiac tissue engineering holds the promise of creating functional replacement tissues to repair heart tissue damage. In an attempt to bridge the gap between the lab and clinical realization, the field has made major strides. In this review, we will discuss state of the art technologies such as layer-by-layer assembly, bioprinting and bionic tissue engineering, all developed to overcome some of the major hurdles faced in the field...
June 1, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Brian J Kwee, David J Mooney
Although skeletal muscle can naturally regenerate in response to minor injuries, more severe damage and myopathies can cause irreversible loss of muscle mass and function. Cell therapies, while promising, have not yet demonstrated consistent benefit, likely due to poor survival of delivered cells. Biomaterials can improve muscle regeneration by presenting chemical and physical cues to muscle cells that mimic the natural cascade of regeneration. This brief review describes strategies for muscle repair utilizing biomaterials that can provide signals to either transplanted or host muscle cells...
May 30, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Nika Shakiba, Peter W Zandstra
Cell competition results in the loss of weaker cells and the dominance of stronger cells. So-called 'loser' cells are either removed by active elimination or by limiting their access to survival factors. Recently, competition has been shown to serve as a surveillance mechanism against emerging aberrant cells in both the developing and adult organism, contributing to overall organism fitness and survival. Here, we explore the origins and implications of cell competition in development, tissue homeostasis, and in vitro culture...
May 25, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Karoliina Pelttari, Marcus Mumme, Andrea Barbero, Ivan Martin
Cells deriving from neural crest are generally acknowledged during embryonic development for their multipotency and plasticity, accounting for their capacity to generate various cell and tissue types even across germ layers. At least partial preservation of some of these properties in adulthood makes neural crest derived cells of large interest for regenerative purposes. Chondrocytes from fully mature nasal septum cartilage in adults are also derivatives of neural crest cells and were recently demonstrated to be able not only to maintain functionality across serial cloning, as surrogate self-renewal test, but also to respond and adapt to heterotopic transplantation sites...
May 25, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Brian F Pfleger, Scott Banta
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
May 18, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Lee R Lynd, Xiaoyu Liang, Mary J Biddy, Andrew Allee, Hao Cai, Thomas Foust, Michael E Himmel, Mark S Laser, Michael Wang, Charles E Wyman
Although the purchase price of cellulosic feedstocks is competitive with petroleum on an energy basis, the cost of lignocellulose conversion to ethanol using today's technology is high. Cost reductions can be pursued via either in-paradigm or new-paradigm innovation. As an example of new-paradigm innovation, consolidated bioprocessing using thermophilic bacteria combined with milling during fermentation (cotreatment) is analyzed. Acknowledging the nascent state of this approach, our analysis indicates potential for radically improved cost competitiveness and feasibility at smaller scale compared to current technology, arising from (a) R&D-driven advances (consolidated bioprocessing with cotreatment in lieu of thermochemical pretreatment and added fungal cellulase), and (b) configurational changes (fuel pellet coproduction instead of electricity, gas boiler(s) in lieu of a solid fuel boiler)...
May 18, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Jan Roelof van der Meer, Man Bock Gu
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
May 17, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Julián Valero, Finn Lohmann, Michael Famulok
Interlocked molecular architectures are well known in supramolecular chemistry and are widely used for various applications like sensors, molecular machines and logic gates. The use of DNA for constructing these interlocked structures has increased significantly within the current decade. Because of Watson-Crick base pairing rules, DNA is an excellent material for the self-assembly of well-defined interlocked nanoarchitectures. These DNA nanostructures exhibit sufficient stability, good solubility in aqueous media, biocompatibility, and can be easily combined with other biomolecules in bio-hybrid nano-assemblies...
May 12, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Steven Pauff, Jamie M Withers, Iain Jw McKean, Simon P Mackay, Glenn A Burley
RNA is the most mercurial of all biomacromolecules. In contrast to DNA, where the predominant role is the storage of genetic information, the biological role of RNA varies; ranging from a template-based intermediary in gene expression to playing a direct role in catalysis. Their high turnover and metabolic lability makes the detection of specific sequences particularly challenging. This review describes the latest synthetic biological developments that enable the direct imaging of RNA both in vitro and in their native cellular environment...
May 8, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Michael T Bethune, Alok V Joglekar
Immunotherapies are yielding effective treatments for several previously untreatable cancers. Until recently, vaccines and adoptive cell therapies have been designed to target public tumor antigens common to multiple patients rather than private antigens specific to a single patient. Due to the difficulty of identifying public antigens that are expressed exclusively on tumor cells, these studies have yielded both clinical successes and serious immune-related adverse events. Multiple avenues of research now underscore the centrality of tumor-specific mutated private antigens to endogenous anti-tumor immunity...
May 8, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Kazushi Suzuki, Takeharu Nagai
Nowadays, the application of chemiluminescence imaging is no longer limited to the monitoring of slow biological phenomena such as circadian rhythms and in vivo tracking of cells. The expanded color palette of bright chemiluminescent protein and near-infrared-emitting luciferins have greatly improved the sensitivity of in vivo tracking of cells as well as enabling real-time cellular chemiluminescence imaging with high spatial resolution. Furthermore, functional chemiluminescent indicators based on the novel concept have been developed, providing more information related to physiological and pathological processes in living organisms...
May 5, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Claire E McGhee, Kang Yong Loh, Yi Lu
The on-site and real-time detection of metal ions is important for environmental monitoring and for understanding the impact of metal ions on human health. However, developing sensors selective for a wide range of metal ions that can work in the complex matrices of untreated samples and cells presents significant challenges. To meet these challenges, DNAzymes, an emerging class of metal ion-dependent enzymes selective for almost any metal ion, have been functionalized with fluorophores, nanoparticles and other imaging agents and incorporated into sensors for the detection of metal ions in environmental samples and for imaging metal ions in living cells...
April 27, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
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