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Earth Science Technology

Scientists Create 'Designer Yeast' In Major Step Toward Synthetic Life (washingtonpost.com) 39

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: In a significant advance toward creating the first "designer" complex cell, scientists say they are one-third of the way to synthesizing the complete genome of baker's yeast. In seven studies published Thursday in the journal Science, the researchers describe how they built six of the 16 chromosomes required for the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, altering the genetic material to edit out some genes and write in new characteristics. The chromosomes generated this time represent the largest amount of genetic material ever synthesized, and the new Sc2.0 cells are substantially different from their natural, or "wild type," relatives. Among the most significant of these new features is a program the scientists called "SCRaMbLE," or "Synthetic Chromosome Recombination and Modification by LoxP-mediated Evolution" (scientists are congenitally disposed toward convoluted acronyms). The program allows scientists to rearrange elements within the genome to generate new and potentially useful permutations. Whereas many of Boeke's peers labor for years in the lab trying to genetically modify organisms, the SCRaMbLE system "lets the yeast do the work and lets the yeast teach us new biology," Jef Boeke, director of New York University Langone's Institute for Systems Genetics and an organizer of the project, said. It's like a version of the lottery in which you can continuously and instantaneously roll new numbers until you get a result you want. Other innovations in the Sc2.0 genome include the removal of duplicate bits of genetic code and the addition of short genetic sequences that distinguish synthetic chromosomes from their natural counterparts. Unlike other synthetic organisms, the engineered yeast is a eukaryote -- a complex cell with diverse internal structures, just like the cells in the human body. It has more genetic material than the bacteria synthesized by the Venter Institute and Harvard projects.
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Scientists Create 'Designer Yeast' In Major Step Toward Synthetic Life

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  • what about booze??? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Friday March 10, 2017 @08:27PM (#54016311)
    maybe these scientists have a taste for good booze and can make custom yeasts to brew some extra good beers & wines and brandies and some brews that distill better than your average spirits
    • by VanGarrett ( 1269030 ) on Saturday March 11, 2017 @03:34AM (#54017259) Homepage

      White Labs' Super High Gravity Ale Yeast (WLP099) can already ferment up to 25% ABV, before the alcohol is enough to kill it. It'd certainly be interesting to see if this method can produce a strain sufficiently resilient to get higher than that.

      • In other news, a laboratory at the NYU Langone Medical Center was today discovered to have been filled with a randomly created strain of baker's yeast that expresses a profound affinity for human flesh. No sign of any of the Medical Center lab personnel were found, and all are presumed lost.

        There will be a memorial bake sale on Sunday.

      • by xtal ( 49134 )

        High gravity / high alcohol tolerance yeasts generally also produce booze that tastes like kerosene.

  • by choovanski ( 780936 ) on Friday March 10, 2017 @08:31PM (#54016327)
    He watched R. Daneel leave, then said to Clousarr, "You're a chemist?" "I'm a zymologist, if you don't mind." "What's the difference?" Clousan looked lofty. "A chemist is a soup-pusher, a stink- operator. A zymologist is a man who helps keep a few billion people alive. I'm a yeast-culture specialist." "All right," said Baley. But Clousarr went on, "This laboratory keeps New York Yeast going. There isn't one day, not one damned hour, that we haven't got cultures of every strain of yeast in the company growing in our kettles. We check and adjust the food factor requirements. We make sure it's breeding true. We twist the genetics, start the new strains and weed them out, sort out their properties and mold them again. "When New Yorkers started getting strawberries out of season a couple of years back, those weren't strawberries, fella. Those were a special high-sugar yeast culture with true-bred color and just a dash of flavor additive. It was developed right here in this room."
    • The guy was a biochemistry PhD, but the "twist the genetics" bit is pretty impressive concept considering it was written in the 50s. Book aside, it's pretty impressive what's going on in genomic research lately. The only question is that if unexpected behavior in human engineered code causes a bad time for a computer system, does unexpected behavior in a human engineered organism stay local or will it impact the larger environmental "runtime".
      • In Asimov mind, "Twist the genetics" probably did not have the same meaning that it has today. The science of the "genetics" so the study of heredity was already well established in the 50s (see Mendel, William Bateson, ...).

      • With the newer CRISPR/cas9 editing technology it is getting to be relatively easy to edit genomes. Let's just hope that there isn't too much biological blowback. So far there haven't been serious incidents suggesting that advanced gene editing might not be as dangerous as originally feared. Of course, it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If your goal is to make food crops resistant to poisons so that you can spray more poisons on people's food, then the unintended outcomes are going to be mo

  • by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Friday March 10, 2017 @08:35PM (#54016337) Homepage Journal
    ...and their designer candida.
  • Uh oh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Friday March 10, 2017 @08:45PM (#54016363)
    "It's like a version of the lottery in which you can continuously and instantaneously roll new numbers until you get a result you want."

    Or a result you don't want. What could possibly go wrong?
    • If they have a strain of yeast that does what they want, do they really want it to scramble and evolve into something that doesn't do what they want?
  • by xororand ( 860319 ) on Friday March 10, 2017 @08:45PM (#54016365)

    There has been a proof-of-concept for synthesizing opioids with genetically modified yeast [nih.gov].

    we engineered yeast to produce the selected opioid compounds thebaine and hydrocodone starting from sugar. All work was conducted in a laboratory that is permitted and secured for work with controlled substances. We combined enzyme discovery, enzyme engineering, and pathway and strain optimization to realize full opiate biosynthesis in yeast. The resulting opioid biosynthesis strains required expression of 21 (thebaine) and 23 (hydrocodone) enzyme activities from plants, mammals, bacteria, and yeast itself. This is a proof-of-principle, and major hurdles remain before optimization and scale up could be achieved. Open discussions of options for governing this technology are also needed in order to responsibly realize alternative supplies for these medically relevant compounds.

    If implemented successfully on a large scale, what are the consequences for traditional opium farmers from already poor regions?

    • If implemented successfully on a large scale, what are the consequences for traditional opium farmers from already poor regions?

      Most likely they will be less poor. Illegal drug production leads to corruption and conflict. The FARC, the Shining Path, the Taliban, and many other narco terrorists fund their organizations with drug money. The farmers at the bottom do not benefit.

  • This is awesome (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CaseCrash ( 1120869 ) on Friday March 10, 2017 @09:31PM (#54016483)
    I see the haters are already out, but it looks like we're closer to being the masters of DNA. This is f'ing awesome.
  • Biological drugs hmmmmm imagine the kinds of schrooms they create....

  • May I suggest that this may be a way to keep ahead of evolving bacterial strains by letting an organism and this process evolve the antibiotic producing organism that is capable of producing an antibiotic. Think in terms of the penicillin mold.

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