Scientists have succeeded in forming a "feedback loop" between a computer and a common yeast to precisely control the switching on and off of specific genes,
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The computer controlled flashes of light to start and stop this gene expression,
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"That had limited success up to now."
Prof Lygeros joined Prof Mustafa Khammash of the ETH Biosystems Science and Engineering department and Prof Hana El Samada group at the University of California San Francisco to try to achieve better control,
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The team started with the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae a well studied strain of yeast familiar since ancient times in brewing and baking,
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A study in the same journal in 2002 found that when S. cerevisiae is exposed to light,
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The activity of the phytochrome can start or stop the genetic machinery that results in the production of a given protein,
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The team used this trick to ensure that when the yeast was producing that protein corresponding to the gene being switched on it could be tracked by using a "reporter" molecule that itself gives off light in a process called fluorescence,
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"The fluorescence is not the only thing there are half a dozen chemical reactions involved in this process."
The team developed a computer model to track how long each burst of light should take to precisely maintain a given amount of gene expression,
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The work adds to a growing amount of scientific literature in which the delicate machinery within life can be bent to the will of experimenters.
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Their findings should help us better understand cell signalling the chemical messages that cells share as they co operate within an organism,
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Such methods are helping to complement time honoured but labour intensive genetic trickery to accomplish similar goals,
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"It quite difficult to engineer synthetic circuits that do something robustly in the cell,
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"That for example may have applications in biofuel production,
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