We are an interdisciplinary team of undergraduate students hailing from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. This summer our research is focused on Maxicell formation in E. coli. We aim to provide improved characterization to facilitate the use of Maxicells - achromosomal E. coli cells - as a safe and minimalistic chassis for future use in Synthetic Biology. We intend to quantify the time frame in which Maxicells can continue to express protein, the active metabolic time frame, by producing reporters for the intracellular concentration of important metabolites such as ATP. In addition we wish to attenuate the improvements in biosafety offered by a non-reproducing chassis via tRNA re-coding and a DNA degrading killswitch to prevent horizontal gene transfer. The resulting novel chassis raises many compelling questions both philosophically; as to our definitions of what constitutes a living cell and legally in terms of the current legislation governing the use of GMOs outside of the laboratory setting.
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