Microscopic image of yeast for article on synthetic biology.
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Published On: November 1st, 2022Categories: Articles, Synthetic Biology
Yeast and synthetic biology are used for the biosynthesis of compounds with medical applications. Synthetic biology has been prolific over recent years, and yeast is an important recent piece of heterologous biosynthesis of biopharmaceuticals. Read on to learn more about yeast and synthetic biology and in which areas of medicine this may be used.

What Is Synthetic Biology?

To understand the role of yeast in synthetic biology, you should first know its applications. According to the Grainger College of Engineering, synthetic biology is defined as, “an emerging field of bioengineering that utilizes concepts and information from a variety of research areas, such as genetics, biophysics, microbiology or molecular biology, to develop methods and tools to engineer and repurpose natural biological systems for applications in biomedicine and biotechnology.” Yeast has become an important part of synthetic biology in recent years.

Some of the synthetic biology applications include:

  • Biosensing, which analyzes environmental signals
  • Therapeutics, which includes the screening of new drugs and creating biology therapy devices
  • Biofuels, pharmaceuticals, and biomaterials, focuses on lowering the cost of drug production and advancing biomaterials, among other things
  • Genetic engineering, which includes recombinant DNA technology (e.g., proteins and human growth hormones can help treat diseases)
  • Gene editing, allows scientists to change part of the DNA by altering, mapping, removing, or replacing parts of the genome
  • Regulation of gene expression, which controls the process where cells produce proteins and RNA
  • Engineering biology and living systems, allows scientists to deconstruct genetics into biological parts, exploring how they can be redesigned and combined to yield de novo functions in a living system

Plant synthetic biology also falls under the umbrella or the emerging field of synthetic and yeast synthetic biology.

Why Use Yeast in Synthetic Biology?

Yeasts are now considered microbial cell factories, which can aid in the production of many fine and bulk chemicals, including pigments, biofuels, agrochemicals, additives, pharmaceuticals, and more. This is because yeasts have a short production and generation time, and are simple to scale up and manipulate. To improve the metabolic engineering of yeasts, yeast synthetic biology has:

  • Assembly and synthesis of standardized parts
  • Tools for metabolic modeling and pathway design
  • Genome editing methods
  • Optimization of synthetic pathways

These improvements have allowed yeast in synthetic biology to be constructed into pathways for producing non-native chemicals, without additional metabolic burden.

What Are Some Recent Advances in Yeast and Synthetic Biology?

There are some recent standouts regarding recent developments in yeast and synthetic biology.

Here are some examples of recent developments:

  1. CRISPR/Cas9 systems are being used in genome editing, focusing on the applications in synthetic biology of Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  2. Studying bioethanol-producing S. cerevisiae and biodiesel-producing Yarrowia lipolytica has allowed scientists to learn about the sustainable production of non-native chemicals.
  3. Scientists have used the colocalization strategies of enzymes and synthetic pathways of yeast to ensure the proper amount of carbon flux.
  4. Scientists have also produced β-ionone and β-carotene in engineered S. cerevisiae, which resulted in a high level of β-ionone in the yeast.
  5. D-lactic acid (PDLA) was also studied in a strain of Y. lipolytica. Next, scientists were able to interrupt the lactic pathway construction, resulting in PDLA homopolymer accumulating in cells with the highest reported amount of produced PDLA in vivo.

There are many more advances in synthetic biology, and it’s sure to be a field with staying power as more discoveries are made.

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