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Scientists built a self-replicating synthetic cell

Scientists have designed a single-celled synthetic cell. These single-cell organisms can divide and multiply like the original cell. The advancement will help the researchers to build mini computers and drug factories with these cells. The new study was published in the journal cell.

 Elizabeth Strychalski, leader of the Cellular Engineering Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and senior author said that there are many ways the improvement in the field of biology could be helpful to us in our daily life. She teamed with her colleagues and planned to engineer living sensors that can take measurements from their surrounding environments, monitoring the acidity, temperature, and oxygen levels nearby.

These sensors can greatly help in the manufacture of products like medicines and they can be placed inside the body. She added that the main goal is when the cell senses a disease state,  and it can make it therapeutic. Then when the disease state is longer there, they could stop making that therapeutic. Other cells could be cultured in the lab and used to produce food and fuel products.

The group of researchers began with an existing synthetic cell called JCVI-syn3.0, which was created in 2016 and it contains 473 genes, Scientific American reported. According to another statement, the bacterium Escherichia coli has about 4,000 genes. This bare-bones cell was crafted from the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium, a sexually transmitted microbe, which scientists stripped of its natural DNA and replaced with their own engineered DNA. In creating JCVI-syn3.0, the scientists wanted to learn which genes are essential for a cell to survive and function normally, and which are superfluous.

The synthetic cell JCVI-syn3.0 could build proteins and replicate its DNA without issue, the minimalist cell could not divide into uniform spheres. Instead, it split haphazardly, producing daughter cells of many different shapes and sizes. Strychalski and her team set out to fix this problem by adding back genes to the stripped-down cell. The researchers discovered 492 genes in JCVI-syn3A. Among these 492 genes, seven of the genes are critical for normal cell division.

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