Designing and integrating synthetic genetic circuits can help in altering the phenotype of cells and treat hitherto incurable diseases.
Many chronic diseases are attributed to the genetic expression of mutated genes or modification of cellular mechanisms due to the presence of particular stimulator molecules. The expression and cell signaling pathways involved in substantiating a disease can be intervened deliberately to treat the disease with the help of principles and tools of synthetic biology.
Synthetic Biology is a revolutionary concept which was conceived recently. It aims to integrate cellular and sub-cellular manipulations in unicellular and multi-cellular organisms, in order to bring about a specific phenotypic response. Genetic circuits are designed, so that the cell can express the desired gens in the presence of specific signaling molecules.
Synthetically engineered Genetic circuits:
The design and development of translational regulatory devices i.e. the genetic circuits largely depend upon the synthetic transcription factors (TFs). There are various types of synthetically engineered genetic circuits, out of which the "Repressilator" model of genetic circuit is the first type of the synthetic genetic circuits ever developed.
Recent innovations in the field of cellular stochastic chemistry are being implemented in revamping the design of the first synthetic genetic oscillator model. Along with that, the interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) can also be harnessed for the development of transcriptional regulatory models which can be implemented in various types of cells.
The basic concept behind genetic circuits find varied applications in the biomedical and environmental industry. Some of the specific applications are mentioned here.
Engineering and integrating transcriptional regulatory circuits in cells, for the treatment of chronic diseases such as cancer, is a popular notion among geneticists. It has already been shown that creation and application of novel adenoviral vectors such as the oncolytic adenovirus dl1520 and ONYX-015 can be selectively propagated in cells to target the inactivated p53 gene,responsible for tumor induction.
Novel drugs isolated from rare sources are very difficult to obtain in sufficient quantities for wide spread applications. The genetic machinery responsible for the natural production of the drug can be used to produce a genetic circuit which can be integrated into bacterial cells for mass production of important drugs.
E.g. Transfer of genes from the Artimisiaannua plant into E.coli to produce the precursor of antimalarial drugs, which can be further processed to obtain the clinically applicable drug.
In addition to the above two applications the genetic circuits can also be used in cellular computation studies, reprogramming of stem cells and bioremediation.
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Jusiak, B., Cleto, S., Perez-Piñera, P., & Lu, T. K. (2016). Engineering synthetic gene circuits in living cells with CRISPR technology. Trends in biotechnology.
Hoynes-O’Connor, A., & Moon, T. S. (2015).Programmable genetic circuits for pathway engineering. Current opinion in biotechnology, 36, 115-121.