Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) announced today a major breakthrough in engineering systems of RNA molecules through computer-assisted design, which could lead to important improvements across a range of industries, including the development of cheaper advanced biofuels.
Scientists will use these new "RNA machines", to adjust genetic expression in the cells of microorganisms. This will enable scientists to develop new strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) that are better able to digest switchgrass biomass and convert released sugars to form three types of transportation fuels – gasoline, diesel and jet fuels.
"This is a perfect example of how our investments in basic science innovations can pave the way for future industries and solutions to our nation's most important challenges," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "This breakthrough at the Joint BioEnergy Institute holds enormous potential for the sustainable production of advanced biofuels and countless other valuable goods."
A breakthrough with E. coli could make it cheaper to produce fuel from switchgrass or other non-food biomass plants to create advanced biofuels with the potential to replace gasoline. While the work at JBEI remains focused on the development of advanced biofuels, JBEI's researchers believe that their concepts may help other researchers to develop many other desired products, including biodegradable plastics and therapeutic drugs. For example, some researchers have already started a project to investigate how to use the "RNA machines" to increase the safety and efficacy of medicine therapies to treat diseases, including diabetes and Parkinson's.
Biological systems are incredibly complex, which makes it difficult to engineer systems of microorganisms that will produce desired products in predictable amounts. JBEI's work, which will be featured in the December 23rd issue of Science magazine, is the first of its kind to set up and adjust a RNA system in a predictable way.
Specifically, researchers focused their design-driven approach on RNA sequences that can fold into complicated three dimensional shapes, called ribozymes and aptazymes. By using JBEI-developed computer-assisted models and simulations, researchers then created complex RNA-based control systems that are able to program a large number of genes. In microorganisms, "commands" that are sent into the cell will be processed by the RNA-based control systems, enabling them to help develop desired products.
One of the major goals of synthetic biology is to produce valuable chemical products from simple, inexpensive and renewable starting materials in a sustainable manner. Computer-assisted models and simulations like the one JBEI developed are essential for doing so. Up to this point, such tools for biology have been very limited and JBEI's breakthrough in applying computer assisted design marks an important technical and conceptual achievement for this field.
To view additional details about this research, visit http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2011/12/22/cad-for-rna/.
JBEI, led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is one of three Bioenergy Research Centers established by the DOE's Office of Science in 2007. For more information, visit www.jbei.org
Jeff Sherwood | EurekAlert!
Silicon solar cell of ISFH yields 25% efficiency with passivating POLO contacts
08.12.2016 | Institut für Solarenergieforschung GmbH
Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer IFAM
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine