Genetic bioengineering can be a slow process, as forcing evolution onto organisms typically requires splicing and dicing of individual genes. Now George Church of Harvard and colleagues developed a system to rapidly speed up the process using a parallel approach.
MIT Tech Review explains the technology:
Under the MAGE technology, scientists first generate 50 short strands of DNA, each containing a sequence similar to a gene or gene regulatory sequence in the target bacterial genome, but that has been updated in some way–incorporating a change that might make an enzyme more efficient, or boost production of a particular protein.
The DNA is mixed into a vial of bacteria, which is then put into a custom-made machine designed in Church’s lab. In the machine, the mixture is subjected to a precisely choreographed routine of temperature and chemical cycles that encourage the bacterial cells to take up the foreign DNA, swapping it into their genomes in place of the native piece it resembles. The single-stranded pieces of DNA are thought to “fake out the cell’s DNA replication machinery, sneaking in and filling a gap” during the replication process, says Church. Each generation of the rapidly reproducing bacteria takes up more of the foreign DNA, ultimately producing a population that has all the desired genetic changes.
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