Researchers at the University of Southern California, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science have developed an innovative technique, called CReATiNG (Cloning Reprogramming and Assembling Tiled Natural Genomic DNA), that offers a simpler and more cost-effective approach to constructing synthetic chromosomes, potentially catapulting genetic engineering into a new era with applications spanning medicine to biotechnology.
By cloning and reassembling natural DNA segments sourced from yeast, the scientists were able to engineer synthetic chromosomes capable of seamlessly replacing their native counterparts within cells. According to the researchers, this method enables the fusion of chromosomes across different yeast strains and species, facilitates structural alterations to chromosomes, and allows for the simultaneous deletion of multiple genes.
“With CReATiNG, we can genetically reprogram organisms in complex ways previously deemed impossible, even with new tools like CRISPR,” he said. “This opens up a world of possibilities in synthetic biology, enhancing our fundamental understanding of life and paving the way for groundbreaking applications,” emphasized Ian Ehrenreich, lead author of the study and professor of biological sciences at USC Dornsife.
Reporting in Nature Communications, the study unveils CReATiNG as a cost-effective alternative in the realm of synthetic biology. The conventional approach involves synthesizing whole chromosomes or genomes from scratch using chemically synthesized DNA pieces, a labor-intensive and expensive process. CReATiNG, on the other hand, leverages natural pieces of DNA as building blocks, thereby significantly lowering costs and technical barriers associated with advanced genetic research.
Alessandro Coradini, the first author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow, highlighted the transformative potential of CReATiNG. By utilizing natural DNA fragments for chromosome assembly, the method paves the way for a more accessible avenue for researchers to unlock new solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in science and medicine today.
The researchers believe that the implications of CReATiNG extend far beyond the laboratory. In the field of biotechnology and medicine, it could lead to more efficient production of pharmaceuticals and biofuels, aid in the development of cell therapies for diseases like cancer, and contribute to environmental bioremediation efforts by engineering bacteria capable of consuming pollutants.
One of the most intriguing revelations from the study is the impact of rearranging chromosome segments in yeast on their growth rates. Certain modifications resulted in growth rates up to 68 percent faster or slower, highlighting the intricate relationship between genetic structure and biological function.
The CReATiNG technique emerges as a new force in synthetic biology, offering not only a streamlined approach to genetic research but also democratizing access to advanced tools. According to the scientists, as we stand at the cusp of a new era in biological science, the implications of CReATiNG have the potential to shape the future of genetic engineering and medicine.