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Current Opinion in Biotechnology

Matthias Heinemann, Yitzhak Pilpel
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
July 19, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Byung-Kook Ham, Jieyu Chen, Yan Yan, William J Lucas
Phosphorus (P) is a macronutrient essential for plant growth, therefore, soil P level is critical to crop yield potential in agriculture. As Pi levels limit crop yield under many soil conditions, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms by which plants adapt to low-phosphate (Pi) soil conditions and interact with their soil microbiome to improve crop P use efficiency, in order to ensure global food security. Recent advances have been made towards achieving this goal through advancing our understanding of the plant's response to limiting Pi conditions to maintain P homeostasis...
July 18, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Niv Antonovsky, Shmuel Gleizer, Ron Milo
Carbon fixation is the gateway of inorganic carbon into the biosphere. Our ability to engineer carbon fixation pathways in living organisms is expected to play a crucial role in the quest towards agricultural and energetic sustainability. Recent successes to introduce non-native carbon fixation pathways into heterotrophic hosts offer novel platforms for manipulating these pathways in genetically malleable organisms. Here, we focus on past efforts and future directions for engineering the dominant carbon fixation pathway in the biosphere, the Calvin-Benson cycle, into the well-known model organism Escherichia coli...
July 14, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Katja Kolar, Wilfried Weber
Precise spatial and temporal control of cellular processes is in life sciences a highly sought-after capability. In the recent years, this goal has become progressively achievable through the field of optogenetics, which utilizes light as a non-invasive means to control genetically encoded light-responsive proteins. The latest optogenetic systems, such as those for control of subcellular localization or cellular decision-making and tissue morphogenesis provide us with insights to gain a deeper understanding of the cellular inner workings...
July 14, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Oliver F Brandenberg, Rudi Fasan, Frances H Arnold
The surge in reports of heme-dependent proteins as catalysts for abiotic, synthetically valuable carbene and nitrene transfer reactions dramatically illustrates the evolvability of the protein world and our nascent ability to exploit that for new enzyme chemistry. We highlight the latest additions to the hemoprotein-catalyzed reaction repertoire (including carbene Si-H and C-H insertions, Doyle-Kirmse reactions, aldehyde olefinations, azide-to-aldehyde conversions, and intermolecular nitrene C-H insertion) and show how different hemoprotein scaffolds offer varied reactivity and selectivity...
July 13, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Caroline Arber, Melvin Young, Patrick Barth
Taking inspiration from Nature, synthetic biology utilizes and modifies biological components to expand the range of biological functions for engineering new practical devices and therapeutics. While early breakthroughs mainly concerned the design of gene circuits, recent efforts have focused on engineering signaling pathways to reprogram cellular functions. Since signal transduction across cell membranes initiates and controls intracellular signaling, membrane receptors have been targeted by diverse protein engineering approaches despite limited mechanistic understanding of their function...
July 11, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Ann-Kathrin Baumgart, Marc Beyer
The usage of mouse models has been vital for biomedical research over the last decades, yet the generation of these models has been extremely difficult and labor-intensive. The identification and generation of nucleases able to introduce site-specific DNA double-strand breaks, particularly the CRIPSR/Cas system, is a major breakthrough for this field as the endogenous DNA repair machinery can be hijacked to specifically introduce genome modifications at these sites. This allows for the time-efficient and cost-efficient generation of mouse models by delivery of designer nucleases together with donor DNA into fertilized oocytes...
July 10, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Wing Ho So, Yu Zhang, Wei Kang, Clarence T T Wong, Hongyan Sun, Jiang Xia
To achieve precise control of the signaling events or to achieve unmistakable synthesis of biomolecules, nature has evolved organic reactions involving proteinogenic amino acids with unparalleled site selectivity. For example, dedicated enzymes accurately dictate the site of post-translational modifications in signaling proteins, and ribosomes precisely link the C-terminal carboxylic acid of one unprotected amino acid with the N-terminal amino group of the other amino acid through spatially confined proximity...
July 5, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Tong Un Chae, So Young Choi, Je Woong Kim, Yoo-Sung Ko, Sang Yup Lee
Metabolic engineering has been playing increasingly important roles in developing microbial cell factories for the production of various chemicals and materials to achieve sustainable chemical industry. Nowadays, many tools and strategies are available for performing systems metabolic engineering that allows systems-level metabolic engineering in more sophisticated and diverse ways by adopting rapidly advancing methodologies and tools of systems biology, synthetic biology and evolutionary engineering. As an outcome, development of more efficient microbial cell factories has become possible...
July 1, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Zhi Lin, Qingli He, Wen Liu
Thiopeptide antibiotics, which are a class of sulfur-rich and highly modified peptide natural products, exhibit a wide variety of important biological properties. These antibiotics are ribosomally synthesized and arise from post-translational modifications, exemplifying a process through which nature develops the structural complexity from Ser/Thr and Cys-rich precursor peptides. Following a brief review of the knowledge gained from nature in terms of the formation of a common thiopeptide scaffold and its specialization to individual members, we highlight the significance of bio-inspired engineering, which has greatly expanded the molecular diversity and utility of thiopeptide antibiotics regarding the search for clinically useful agents, investigation into new mechanisms of action and access to typically 'inaccessible' biosynthetic processes over the past two years...
June 30, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Benjamin G Davis, Christopher J Serpell
No abstract text is available yet for this article.
June 27, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Ana Palma Teixeira, Martin Fussenegger
Our ability to engineer mammalian cells with effective therapeutic behaviors has brought new hope for treating metabolic diseases. Synthetic gene networks have been customized to interface with the host metabolism, discriminate between healthy and diseased states, and respond by producing an adjusted dose of the therapeutic molecule. Such devices have the potential to treat a range of dysfunctions that are simply not addressable using conventional therapies. Recently, the repurposing of native signaling pathways has formed the basis of autonomous therapeutic programs genetically installed in mammalian cells and has greatly expanded the possibilities to effectively tackle metabolic disorders...
June 26, 2017: Current Opinion in Biotechnology
Ge-Ah Kim, Jason R Spence, Shuichi Takayama
Recent advances allow access to human cell-based intestinal organoids that recreate human physiology to levels not possible with conventional 2D cell cultures. Despite their huge potential, there are many challenges that remain. This review will cover recent bioengineering approaches to improve organoid maturation, scale up, reproducibility and analysis. The first section covers the advances in engineering the culture environment, followed by the section on tools for micro-manipulation and analysis of organoids...
June 21, 2017: 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 13, 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 9, 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
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