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Scientists Use Molecular ‘Lock and Key’ for Potential Control of GMOs

UC Berkeley researchers have developed an easy way to put bacteria under a molecular lock and key in order to contain its accidental spread. The method involves a series of genetic mutations that render the microbe inactive unless the right molecule is added to enable its viability.
The work appears this week in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, a publication of the American Chemical Society. The findings show promise as a practical method of biocontainment as advances in synthetic biology and genetic engineering prompt more research into techniques to control newly-created organisms, says senior author J. Christopher Anderson, an associate professor of bioengineering.
The researchers worked with a strain of E. coli commonly used in research labs, targeting five genes that are required for the organism to survive and devising easy ways to modify them. They created mutations in the genes that would require the addition of the molecule benzothiazole in order to function.
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