Researchers at Virginia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have used a computer-aided design tool to create genetic languages to guide the design of biological systems.
Known as GenoCAD, the open-source software was developed by researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech to help synthetic biologists capture biological rules to engineer organisms that produce useful products or health-care solutions from inexpensive, renewable materials.
GenoCAD helps researchers in the design of protein expression vectors, artificial gene networks, and other genetic constructs, essentially combining engineering approaches with biology.
Synthetic biologists have an increasingly large library of naturally derived and synthetic parts at their disposal to design and build living systems. These parts are the words of a DNA language and the “grammar” a set of design rules governing the language.
It has to be expressive enough to allow scientists to generate a broad range of constructs, but it has to be focused enough to limit the possibilities of designing faulty constructs.
MIT’s Oliver Purcell, a postdoctoral associate, and Timothy Lu, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, have developed a language detailed in ACS Synthetic Biology describing how to design a broad range of synthetic transcription factors for animals, plants, and other organisms with cells that contain a nucleus.
Meanwhile, Sakiko Okumoto, an assistant professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science at the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Amanda Wilson, a software engineer with the Synthetic Biology Group at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, developed a language describing design rules for expressing genes in the chloroplast of microalgae Their work was published in the Jan. 15 issue of Bioinformatics.
“Just like software engineers need different languages like HTML, SQL, or Java to develop different kinds of software applications, synthetic biologists need languages for different biological applications,” said Jean Peccoud, an associate professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, and principal investigator of the GenoCAD project. “From its inception, we envisioned GenoCAD as a framework allowing users to capture their expertise of a particular domain in languages that they could use themselves or share with others.”
The researchers said encapsulating current knowledge by defining standards will become increasingly important as the number and complexity of components engineered by synthetic biologists increases.
They propose that grammars are a first step toward the standardization of a broad range of synthetic genetic parts that could be combined to develop innovative products.
“Developing a grammar in GenoCAD is a little like writing a review paper,” Purcell said. “You start with the headings and you progressively dig deeper in the details. At the end of the process, you have a much better appreciation for what you know and what you don’t know about a particular domain.”
Lu added, “Our group has a recognized expertise in synthetic transcription factors. We hope that this work will help a broad range of scientists use our results in their own projects.”
“GenoCAD exemplifies the kind of cyberinfrastructure the institute is known for,” said Dennis Dean, the director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. “This type of portal can enable collaborations across disciplines and institutions to foster a team approach to today’s most pressing scientific challenges.”
This work was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award (1DP2OD008435), the National Science Foundation (1124247 to T.K.L. and 0850100 to J.P.), and the Office of Naval Research (N00014-13-1-0424). Peccoud is Chief Scientific Officer of GenoFAB LLC, a company providing products and services derived from GenoCAD.
Written by Emily Kale.
Tiffany L Trent
Tiffany Trent | EurekAlert!
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
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...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy