Stabilizing freeze-dried cellular machinery unlocks cell-free biotechnology

February 25, 2020

Researchers at California Polytechnic State University have developed a low-cost approach that improves cell-free biotechnology's utility for bio-manufacturing and portability for field applications.

Cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) is a biotechnology that harnesses active cellular machinery in a test tube without the presence of living cells, allowing researchers to directly access and manipulate biochemical processes. Scientists and engineers are looking to utilize cell-free biotechnology for numerous applications including on-demand biomanufacturing of biomaterials and therapeutics, point-of-care diagnostics of disease biomarkers and environmental pollutants, and transformative biochemical education platforms.

Cell-free biotechnology researchers have already made many of these applications a reality in the lab, but getting them to work in the field, clinic and classroom is more difficult. The cellular machinery extracted for use in cell-free biotechnology contains biomolecules such as proteins and RNAs, which break down at warmer temperatures, greatly limiting the shelf life of the cellular machinery. Transporting it from one laboratory to another or taking it out of the lab for field applications requires refrigeration to maintain its activity. Being tethered to the "cold chain" is a fundamental limit to meeting cell-free biotechnology's potential.

Inspired by storage optimizations of biological materials like cow's milk, researchers have previously extended the shelf life of extracts by freeze-drying them, resulting in a product similar to powdered milk that can be stored at room temperature for extended time periods. However, unlike powdered milk, freeze-dried cellular machinery cannot be stored for more than a few days without continual loss of activity. Researchers at California Polytechnic State University have discovered low-cost preservatives that allow freeze-dried cellular machinery to retain full activity when stored at room temperature for up to two weeks.

To accomplish this, a team of undergraduate student researchers pursued an interdisciplinary approach led by professors Javin Oza, Katharine Watts and Pratish Patel. As published in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, researchers selected 10 preservatives with four distinct mechanisms of action and systematically identified the best performers, which were then tested in combinations of two or three. This approach allowed the researchers to identify combinations of preservatives that could maintain the full productivity of the cellular machinery for two weeks at room temperature. Researchers also discovered that certain combinations of preservatives could enhance the protein-producing capacity of the cellular machinery nearly two-fold.

Researchers demonstrated that the utility of any given preservative for stabilizing biological materials is highly context dependent. To help overcome this limitation, their data was used to develop a machine learning algorithm to allow other users to identify preservative formulations that are ideal for their specific application of the cell-free biotechnology. Access to the machine learning algorithm through a user-friendly interface will soon be available to the public on http://www.oza-lab.com.

These advances represent a step toward unlocking the potential for cell-free biotechnology applications. More information about this work can be found in the publication entitled "Unlocking applications of cell-free biotechnology through enhanced shelf-life and productivity of E. coli extracts."
-end-


California Polytechnic State University

Related Biotechnology Articles from Brightsurf:

Cyanobacteria as "green" catalysts in biotechnology
Researchers from TU Graz and Ruhr University Bochum show in the journal ACS Catalysis how the catalytic activity of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, can be significantly increased.

Biotechnology to the rescue of Brussels sprouts
An international team has identified the genes that make these plants resistant to the pathogen that attacks crops belonging to the cabbage family all over the world.

UM professor co-authors report on the use of biotechnology in forests
University of Montana Professor Diana Six is one of 12 authors of a new report that addresses the potential for biotechnology to provide solutions for protecting forest trees from insect and pathogen outbreaks, which are increasing because of climate change and expanded global trade.

Faster genome evolution methods to transform yeast for industrial biotechnology
A research team led by Prof. DAI Junbiao at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with Prof.

New innovations in cell-free biotechnology
Professor Michael Jewett's new platform to conduct cell-free protein synthesis could lead to improved quality of manufactured protein therapeutics and biomaterials.

Silk 'micrococoons' could be used in biotechnology and medicine
Microscopic versions of the cocoons spun by silkworms have been manufactured by a team of researchers.

The end of biotechnology as we know it
More than 400 attendees from five continents discussed trends and improvements in biotechnology at the European Summit of Industrial Biotechnology (ESIB) in Graz/Austria and talked many topics like a dehumanized research process.

Biotechnology: A growing field in the developing world
A detailed new report surveys a broad cross-section of biotechnology work across developing countries, revealing steady growth in fields tied to human well-being worldwide.

China releases first report on biotechnology in developing countries
The first report on biotechnology in developing countries revealing an overall picture of their biotechnology growth and competitiveness was released on Nov.

Exclusive: Biotechnology leaders surveyed about impact of Trump presidency
The day following the election of Donald J. Trump as President, a survey of leaders in biotechnology in the United States, conducted by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News showed that Trump's presidency will negatively impact NIH research funding as well as STEM education; a plurality said it will also spark a 'brain drain' as foreign-born researchers educated in American universities will be more likely to leave.

Read More: Biotechnology News and Biotechnology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.