Synthetic Chromosome Could Help Biodiesel, Ethanol

boekeThe scientific world today is all a-buzz about the world’s first yeast synthetic chromosome, and the discovery could help the biodiesel and ethanol industries. This article from the Christian Science Monitor says researchers have put together man-made DNA into the synthetic version of a chromosome, a development expected to have implications for the green fuels.

“For me, one of most exciting aspects is the fact that we’ve so extensively edited the sequence of natural chromosome and then synthesized the entire thing from scratch,” said study leader Jef Boeke, a synthetic biologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, who was previously at Johns Hopkins University.

Using a technique known as “scrambling,” the scientists can shuffle the yeast genes like a deck of cards. The researchers could make millions and millions of different decks of genetic cards, which could give yeast totally new properties.

For example, researchers could make synthetic strains of yeast to produce rare medicines such as the malarial drug artemisinin, or vaccines like the hepatitis B vaccine. Synthetic yeast could also churn out more efficient biofuels, such as alcohol, butanol or biodiesel, which could enable humanity to transition off of a petroleum economy, Boeke said.

For now, the costs are prohibitive for the biofuels industry, or any industry for that matter, to use. But the scientists are hopeful they’ll be able to get the costs down as the technology improves.

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