Synthetic biology, often coined as syn-bio, is a rapidly evolving field that is revolutionizing various industries by harnessing the power of living organisms to create new and sustainable solutions. Synthetic biology tools are crucial in this process, enabling researchers and scientists to design, construct, and manipulate biological systems. Read on to learn more about the current uses of synthetic biology tools across various industries, from industrial to medical, and how syn-bio is helping the world.
Amazing Applications of Synthetic Biology
Syn-bio is changing and evolving daily, and there are many real-world applications. Fields such as synthetic biology and genetic engineering touch many industries, from farming to medicine. Some of the amazing ways syn-bio is used are listed below.
Engineered Rubber for Tires
Isoprene, a key component in the production of synthetic rubber, has traditionally been derived from petrochemical sources. However, the limited availability of natural rubber, primarily sourced from rubber trees, has forced companies to explore alternative methods. Syn-bio has played a pivotal role, facilitating the development of a reliable, high-efficiency fermentation-based process for the production of BioIsoprene™ monomer by DuPont.
Using synthetic biology tools, such as DNA synthesis and sequencing, researchers have been able to construct and optimize the genes responsible for isoprene production in microorganisms. This approach allows for the rapid characterization and modification of strains, improving efficiency and yield. By leveraging synthetic biology and biomanufacturing, reliance on biochemicals can be reduced, helping the rubber industry become more sustainable.
The Emergence of BioAcrylic
Acrylic, a widely used petrochemical, has numerous applications across various industries. A new petroleum-based acrylic is being engineered (BioAcrylic) to optimize the metabolic pathways of microorganisms, enabling them to convert renewable carbon sources into BioAcrylic efficiently.
Traditionally, microorganisms capable of producing Bioacrylic did not exist in nature. Researchers have redesigned natural microbes through syn-bio, enhancing their ability to utilize renewable carbon sources in commercial bioprocesses. Bioacrylic offers a more sustainable and economically viable alternative to traditional acrylic by reducing oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.
Making Green Chemicals from Agricultural Waste
The field of synthetic biology and environmental remediation can help save the planet. Surfactants, essential components of many chemical formulations, are typically derived from petrochemicals or seed oils. However, the production of surfactants from petrochemicals contributes to significant carbon dioxide emissions. Researchers have developed microorganisms capable of converting agricultural waste materials into surfactants to address this challenge, offering a greener alternative to traditional production methods.
This process involves engineering microorganisms to metabolize soybean hulls, an abundant agricultural waste product, into surfactants. By upgrading underutilized materials like soybean hulls, this innovative use of synthetic biology tools aligns with the sustainability goals of the United Soybean Board, which supports the development of technology that converts soy-based materials into new products.
Syn-bio is also relevant in drug discovery and vaccine development. The creation of cost-effective vaccines for infectious diseases is paramount, particularly in developing countries. Through its comprehensive workflow and synthetic biology tools, researchers are at the forefront of vaccine development, enabling scientists to expedite the identification and production of immunogens.
Using sy-bio, researchers have successfully developed gene constructs for HIV vaccine candidates, triggering strong and lasting immune responses in clinical trials. The ability to rapidly engineer and optimize genetic sequences has accelerated the vaccine development process, bringing us closer to a world with effective and accessible vaccines.
Sugar as a Petroleum Substitute
Synthetic biology tools are also used to help produce petroleum substitutes. The demand for biofuels and renewable chemicals continues to grow, driven by the need for sustainable alternatives to petroleum.
However, engineered biomass today provides greater price stability and reduces energy consumption in the fermentation process. By activating dormant biodegrading enzymes within the biomass, the need for pretreatments and enzymes is reduced, making biofuel production more economically viable. This technology holds the potential to reduce our dependence on imported petroleum, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and create new job opportunities in agriculture and manufacturing.
Biofuels as Petroleum Alternatives
Another syn-bio application utilizes microbial fatty acid biosynthesis to produce a diverse range of biofuels and renewable chemicals. Through the use of synthetic biology tools, engineered microbial cells are capable of converting renewable carbohydrates into diesel alternatives.
A streamlined approach to production, coupled with the use of scalable renewable resources, enables cost-competitive biofuels without subsidies. Slowly, the transition is moving towards renewable and sustainable alternatives to diesel, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
To learn more about synthetic biology tools you’d need in your laboratory, contact the professionals at Hudson Robotics today to receive a quote or speak to us.