Watch the clock-engineering biological systems to be on time.
ABSTRACT Inspired by natural time-keeping devices controlling the circadian clock, managing information processing in the brain and coordinating physiological activities on a daily (feeding and sleeping) or seasonal timescale (reproductive activity or hibernation), synthetic biologists have successfully assembled functional synthetic clocks from cataloged genetic components with standardized activities and arranging them in transcription circuits containing positive and negative feedback loops with integrated time-delay dynamics. While the positive feedback loop drives the clock like the (balance) spring in a mechanical watch the negative time-delay circuit represents the pulse generator defining a minimal time unit and precision of the clock like the pendulum fallback or the movement of the balance wheel in a classical mechanic watch. This basic design principle enabled the construction of a variety of synthetic oscillators whose design details are concisely covered in this review.
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ABSTRACT: A challenge in biology is to understand how complex molecular networks in the cell execute sophisticated regulatory functions. Here we explore the idea that there are common and general principles that link network structures to biological functions, principles that constrain the design solutions that evolution can converge upon for accomplishing a given cellular task. We describe approaches for classifying networks based on abstract architectures and functions, rather than on the specific molecular components of the networks. For any common regulatory task, can we define the space of all possible molecular solutions? Such inverse approaches might ultimately allow the assembly of a design table of core molecular algorithms that could serve as a guide for building synthetic networks and modulating disease networks.Molecular cell 01/2013; 49(2):202-12. · 14.61 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Synthetic biology aims to create functional devices, systems and organisms with novel and useful functions on the basis of catalogued and standardized biological building blocks. Although they were initially constructed to elucidate the dynamics of simple processes, designed devices now contribute to the understanding of disease mechanisms, provide novel diagnostic tools, enable economic production of therapeutics and allow the design of novel strategies for the treatment of cancer, immune diseases and metabolic disorders, such as diabetes and gout, as well as a range of infectious diseases. In this Review, we cover the impact and potential of synthetic biology for biomedical applications.Nature Reviews Genetics 11/2011; 13(1):21-35. · 41.06 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Improved characterization of infectious disease dynamics is required. To that end, three-dimensional (3D) data analysis of feedback-like processes may be considered. To detect infectious disease data patterns, a systems biology (SB) and evolutionary biology (EB) approach was evaluated, which utilizes leukocyte data structures designed to diminish data variability and enhance discrimination. Using data collected from one avian and two mammalian (human and bovine) species infected with viral, parasite, or bacterial agents (both sensitive and resistant to antimicrobials), four data structures were explored: (i) counts or percentages of a single leukocyte type, such as lymphocytes, neutrophils, or macrophages (the classic approach), and three levels of the SB/EB approach, which assessed (ii) 2D, (iii) 3D, and (iv) multi-dimensional (rotating 3D) host-microbial interactions. In all studies, no classic data structure discriminated disease-positive (D+, or observations in which a microbe was isolated) from disease-negative (D-, or microbial-negative) groups: D+ and D- data distributions overlapped. In contrast, multi-dimensional analysis of indicators designed to possess desirable features, such as a single line of observations, displayed a continuous, circular data structure, whose abrupt inflections facilitated partitioning into subsets statistically significantly different from one another. In all studies, the 3D, SB/EB approach distinguished three (steady, positive, and negative) feedback phases, in which D- data characterized the steady state phase, and D+ data were found in the positive and negative phases. In humans, spatial patterns revealed false-negative observations and three malaria-positive data classes. In both humans and bovines, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections were discriminated from non-MRSA infections. More information can be extracted, from the same data, provided that data are structured, their 3D relationships are considered, and well-conserved (feedback-like) functions are estimated. Patterns emerging from such structures may distinguish well-conserved from recently developed host-microbial interactions. Applications include diagnosis, error detection, and modeling.PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(2):e53984. · 3.53 Impact Factor