Synthetic yeast chromosomes

10 March 2017

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Scientists have constructed artificial chromosomes capable of genetically “booting up” and running in cultured cells.

Something similar has been achieved previously in bacteria, and in 2014 a single artificial chromosome was successfully inserted into a yeast cell. Now the same team, led by New York-based scientist Jef Boeke and writing in the journal Science, have successfully redesigned the complete genome of yeast, and rebuilt from scratch a further 5 of the 16 chromosomes that operate inside a yeast cell.

These stripped-down and re-engineered replacement chromosomes contain a heavily-edited version of the original DNA. Much of the “junk” that litters the native yeast - and human - genome has been removed, and special genetic “sign-posts”, intended to make manipulation of the genome easier in future, have been inserted.

Yeast cells carrying these stripped-down and re-engineered replacement chromosomes are healthy and grow normally, bringing us closer to the goal of producing completely synthetic genomes for complex cells like our own.

"Our colleagues are already looking at ways to engineer human cells that will render them unable to be infected by a virus," says Boeke.

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