Biotechnology

  • Article |

    The hair follicle bulge contains epithelial stem cells that contribute to follicle formation during each hair cycle. Here the authors differentiate human induced pluripotent stem cells into folliculogenic epithelial stem cells, which can produce all hair follicle lineages including a stem cell population.

    • Ruifeng Yang
    • , Ying Zheng
    •  & Xiaowei Xu
  • Article |

    Colour changes in response to external stimuli are common in nature, from turkey skin to butterfly wings. Here, inspired by this behaviour, the authors have developed a sensor capable of providing an individual colour response to specific target chemicals using genetically engineered viruses.

    • Jin-Woo Oh
    • , Woo-Jae Chung
    •  & Seung-Wuk Lee
  • Article |

    Cas9 RNA-guided engineered nucleases (RGENs) induce site-specific DNA cleavages in cultured cells and organisms and are used widely as genome-editing tools. Here, the authors develop an RGEN-based technology to genotype both RGEN-induced mutations and cancer-associated mutations in human cell lines.

    • Jong Min Kim
    • , Daesik Kim
    •  & Jin-Soo Kim
  • Article |

    Self-propelled biological microswimmers in viscous fluids are common in nature, but their synthetic counterparts are not available to date. Williams et al.develop a hybrid swimmer to emulate flagellar propulsion, which provides a platform to add engineered functionality to complex motile devices.

    • Brian J. Williams
    • , Sandeep V. Anand
    •  & M. Taher A. Saif
  • Article |

    Despite their clinical potential, cytokines can often be highly toxic in patients, due to their systemic activity. Here, the authors present a strategy to engineer immunocytokines with very high targeting efficacies using mutant cytokines linked to nanobodies that only become active when bound to a specific cell marker.

    • Geneviève Garcin
    • , Franciane Paul
    •  & Gilles Uzé
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Nanopore sensors are a promising tool for the controlled detection of a range of possible substrates. Here the authors describe a nanopore sensor based on short single-walled carbon nanotubes inserted into a lipid bilayer, with modified sensing properties compared to longer nanotubes.

    • Lei Liu
    • , Chun Yang
    •  & Hai-Chen Wu
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The topographical features of insect wings result in some interesting surface properties, including hydrophobicity and antibacterial activity. Here the authors identify the surface of black silicon as a mimic of dragonfly wings and show that it too possesses antibacterial activity.

    • Elena P. Ivanova
    • , Jafar Hasan
    •  & Russell J. Crawford
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Designer gene circuits allow the controlled expression of proteins in response to specific stimuli. Here, Rössger et al.use synthetic biology approaches to create a fatty-acid biosensor that controls the production of a satiety hormone and use it to control diet-induced obesity in mice.

    • Katrin Rössger
    • , Ghislaine Charpin-El-Hamri
    •  & Martin Fussenegger
  • Article |

    Microbial fuels cells present a way of generating electricity using the natural metabolism of microorganisms. Here the authors carry out single-cell current measurements ofGeobacter sulfurreducensDL-1 to determine the upper limits of microbial fuel cell performance.

    • Xiaocheng Jiang
    • , Jinsong Hu
    •  & Justin C. Biffinger
  • Article |

    Semiconductor-based, non-optical DNA sequencing technologies such as Ion Torrent sequencing offer speed and cost advantages compared with alternative techniques. Cheng et al. demonstrate a protocol allowing the use of Ion Torrent technology to sequence DNA from chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments.

    • Christine S. Cheng
    • , Kunal Rai
    •  & Ido Amit
  • Article |

    Cells can adapt rapidly to survive and efficiently exploit constantly changing environments by varying their mutation rate. Here the authors construct an in silicosystem to modulate mutation rate, and demonstrate that this method can be used in the laboratory to create specific phenotypes.

    • Howard H. Chou
    •  & Jay D. Keasling
  • Article |

    4-hydroxycoumarin (4HC), a precursor for anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin, has a major role in the treatment of thromboembolic diseases. Here, the authors present an artificial biosynthetic pathway for 4HC production in E. coliand demonstrate its potential for large-scale microbial production.

    • Yuheng Lin
    • , Xiaolin Shen
    •  & Yajun Yan
  • Article |

    Graphene nanopores hold great potential for single-molecule DNA screening; however, pore clogging due to hydrophobic interactions is a severe problem. Schneider et al. show that this can be prevented by non-covalently coating graphene with an ultrathin hydrophilic self-assembled monolayer.

    • Grégory F. Schneider
    • , Qiang Xu
    •  & Cees Dekker
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Transport of colloidal cargoes to target sites can be done by controlling active carriers, like self-propelled bacteria, under external stimuli. Koumakis et al.show that bacteria can autonomously achieve the same goal when moving over pre-designed asymmetric microstructures.

    • N. Koumakis
    • , A. Lepore
    •  & R. Di Leonardo
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Lacrimal glands maintain a healthy corneal epithelium but are dysfunctional for example in dry-eye disease. Here, the authors transplant bioengineered lacrimal and harderian gland germs into mice, where they connect to the host duct and nervous system and restore lacrimal gland function.

    • Masatoshi Hirayama
    • , Miho Ogawa
    •  & Takashi Tsuji
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Salivary gland dysfunction as a result of diseases or ageing reduces the quality of life and causes various oral health problems. Here the authors show that the salivary gland function of mice can be recovered by orthotopic transplantation of a bioengineered salivary gland germ.

    • Miho Ogawa
    • , Masamitsu Oshima
    •  & Takashi Tsuji
  • Article |

    Cre recombinase is widely used to precisely manipulate genes and chromosomes, but it often displays off-target activity. Here, the authors improve the accuracy of Cre-mediated recombination by introducing specific mutations in the enzyme’s dimerization surface.

    • Nikolai Eroshenko
    •  & George M. Church
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Transport of DNA molecules across lipid membranes requires protein conduits such as the nuclear pore complex. Franceschiniet al.engineer an artificial sequence-selective DNA transporter by attaching gating oligonucleotides to a bacterial nanopore.

    • Lorenzo Franceschini
    • , Misha Soskine
    •  & Giovanni Maglia
  • Article |

    Tissue engineering relies on the vascular compatibility of the synthesised constructs with target tissues. Here, the authors fabricate a prevascularised tissue construct of cell-laden hydrogel fibres as a framework that allows the formation of vascularised adipose and hepatic tissues.

    • Meng Fatt Leong
    • , Jerry K. C. Toh
    •  & Jackie Y. Ying
  • Article |

    The potential tumorigenicity of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) limits their application in cell therapies. Ben-David et al.identify the tight-junction protein Claudin-6 as a cell-surface marker of hPSCs, and demonstrate three Claudin-6-based strategies to remove tumorigenic hPSCs from mixed cell cultures.

    • Uri Ben-David
    • , Neta Nudel
    •  & Nissim Benvenisty
  • Article |

    Artificially engineered tissues may be useful for regenerative therapies but their fabrication tends to be complicated. Stevens et al. present a technique for the precise organization of microstructurally complex tissues that works with a variety of cell types and does not require sophisticated equipment.

    • K. R. Stevens
    • , M. D. Ungrin
    •  & S. N. Bhatia
  • Article |

    Guanine-rich DNA can form four-stranded structures called G-quadruplexes, which are thought to influence DNA replication, transcription and repair; their stability and prevalence in the genome is in need of further elucidation. Here the authors employ an antibody-based approach to sensitively map G-quadruplexes in the genome.

    • Enid Yi Ni Lam
    • , Dario Beraldi
    •  & Shankar Balasubramanian
  • Article |

    The identification of hosts of blood-sucking insects is important for studying ecological factors that affect pathogen distribution. Önder et al. report a proteomics-based methodology for the analysis of blood remnants in ticks that identifies the host species from which the tick has fed up to 6 months earlier.

    • Özlem Önder
    • , Wenguang Shao
    •  & Dustin Brisson
  • Article |

    The complex shapes of biological tissues are often formed as a result of stress modulations. Wu et al.exploit such behaviour experimentally and theoretically to demonstrate a new mechanism of the formation of three-dimensional structures that is driven by engineered small-scale stresses within patterned hydrogel sheets.

    • Zi Liang Wu
    • , Michael Moshe
    •  & Eugenia Kumacheva
  • Article |

    Bacterial type III secretion systems (T3SS) improve the delivery of vaccine antigens and antigen-specific immune responses but require the use of live vaccines. Carleton et al. report the assembly of a functional T3SS in replication-incompetent bacterial minicells that can deliver vaccine antigens in vitro and in vivo.

    • Heather A. Carleton
    • , María Lara-Tejero
    •  & Jorge E. Galán
  • Article |

    Primary sensory areas of newborn mammals typically display input-dependent plasticity. Thomson and colleagues use a sensory prosthetic device in rats to show that adult rats can discriminate different infrared light signals, when the signals are routed to somatosensory cortex by electrical microstimulation.

    • Eric E. Thomson
    • , Rafael Carra
    •  & Miguel A.L. Nicolelis
  • Article |

    Gene circuits created by synthetic biologists working in one system may not be functional when transferred to a different organism. Using computational modelling to identify factors underlying such differences, the authors successfully adapt a yeast ‘linearizer’ circuit so that it functions in mammalian cells.

    • Dmitry Nevozhay
    • , Tomasz Zal
    •  & Gábor Balázsi
  • Article |

    Genome-wide variation in the directed evolution of metabolite-overproducing microbes requires high-throughput screening platforms. Yang et al.show that synthetic RNA devices can sense target metabolites, enrich pathway optimisation, and expedite the evolution of metabolite-producing microbes.

    • Jina Yang
    • , Sang Woo Seo
    •  & Gyoo Yeol Jung
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Artificially engineered tissues may have many therapeutic applications but complex tissues are hard to create in vitro. Here, Okano and colleagues report the production of functional cardiac tissue sheets with perfusable blood vessels, which increase the thickness and survival of transplanted tissue.

    • Hidekazu Sekine
    • , Tatsuya Shimizu
    •  & Teruo Okano
  • Article |

    Microbial fatty acid-derived fuels represent promising alternatives to the traditionally used fossil fuels. Koffas and colleagues report that E. colicentral metabolism can be modified to produce large quantities of fatty acids through a modular pathway engineering strategy.

    • Peng Xu
    • , Qin Gu
    •  & Mattheos A.G. Koffas
  • Article
    | Open Access

    Genetic modification in insects mostly involves the use of fluorescent markers to identify successful transformation. Here Osanai-Futahashi et al.report a marker system based on changes in melanin pigmentation that allows the identification of genetically modified insects with the naked eye.

    • Mizuko Osanai-Futahashi
    • , Takahiro Ohde
    •  & Hideki Sezutsu
  • Article |

    Microparticles are small vesicular structures that are shed from cellular plasma membranes. Tang and colleagues show that cells treated with chemotherapeutic drugs produce drug-containing microparticles, which can be used as anticancer agents in mice.

    • Ke Tang
    • , Yi Zhang
    •  & Bo Huang
  • Article
    | Open Access

    The ability of oleaginous fungi to produce lipids for biofuels remains untapped, in part due to a lack of genetic information required to engineer industrial strains. Zhuet al. present the genome of R. toruloides, and identify transcriptomic and proteomic changes associated with lipid production.

    • Zhiwei Zhu
    • , Sufang Zhang
    •  & Zongbao K. Zhao
  • Article |

    Calcium-sensing fluorescent proteins such as TN-XXL are valuable tools for studying cellular function but, when expressed in mice, may affect animal physiology and behaviour. The authors of this paper create transgenic mice expressing TN-XXL and show that long-term expression of TN-XXL is tolerated well.

    • Stephan Direnberger
    • , Marsilius Mues
    •  & Oliver Griesbeck