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Engineering a life form to fail

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Swarmbots: Apparently, it takes ingenuity to get a life form to fail, but the trick may come in handy. From Duke University:

Duke University bioengineers design cells that die if they leave the confines of their capsule

Duke University researchers have engineered microbes that can’t run away from home; those that do will quickly die without protective proteins produced by their peers.

Dubbed “swarmbots” for their ability to survive in a crowd, the system could be used as a safeguard to stop genetically modified organisms from escaping into the surrounding environment. The approach could also be used to reliably program colonies of bacteria to respond to changes in their surrounding environment, such as releasing specific molecules on cue.

The system is described online February 29, 2016, in Molecular Systems Biology.


Hmmm. We’ll soon find out if we should bet against nature.

See “Coupling spatial segregation with synthetic circuits to control bacterial survival.” Shuqiang Huang, Anna Lee, Ryan Tsoi, Feilun Wu, Ying Zhang, Kam Leong, and Lingchong You. Molecular Systems Biology, Online Feb. 29, 2016. DOI: 10.15252/msb.20156567
See also: Can we solve the mystery of the origin of life by creating life in the lab?

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