Building "nanoreactors" to develop medicines, vitamins, and other technology

Building "nanoreactors" to develop medicines, vitamins, and other technology ...

Researchers at Michigan State University have helped open a door that could lead to medicines, vitamins, and other services being developed at reduced costs and with improved efficiency.

The international research organization led by Henning Kirst andCheryl Kerfeld used bacterial microcompartments to develop valuable chemicals.

The project was recently published in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The microcompartments, they''re similar to nanoreactors or nanofactories, according to Kirst, a senior research associate at the University of Wisconsin, which is located at the University of California and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Microcompartments, according to Kirst, Kerfeld, and their partners, are an opportunity to take important chemical reactions to the next level. Over the past few decades, researchers have exploited the power of enzymes found in bacteria to produce valuable chemical goods, including biofuels and medicines.

Unlike other industrial applications, chemists often depend on the whole microorganism to produce the desired compound, which Kirst claims will lead to complications and problems.

The common sense we use is its like a house. If you have reactions, then you need to go to the second floor for shampoo, then return to the basement to finish showering, and then to the first floor for your towel. It''s just quite inefficient.

The bacteria might make one ingredient on the other side of their cell, while the specific enzyme that uses that ingredient to make the final product is on the other side. Finally, there are other enzymes along the way that might snatch it up and use it for something else.

The enzymes are found in bacterial microcompartments, which are similar to that of the cell in the house. The Spartans and their colleagues demonstrated they could design microcompartments to optimize a specific reaction, bringing the necessary enzymes together in a single, smaller space rather than a spread out.

"We are putting everything we need for a task in the same room," Kirst said. The compartmentalization gives us greater control and improves efficiency.

The Spelling Manor is a small property in Los Angeles, which houses over 100 rooms and more than 50,000 square feet, according to Kerfeld, a Hannah Distinguished Professor in the MSUDepartment of Biochemistry and Molecular Biologyin theCollege of Natural Scienceand a faculty member in theMSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory. The Department of Energy has the same expertise as the Spelling Manor, and is backed by the US Department of Energy.

The company created a microcompartment system that would streamline the simple and inexpensive compounds formate and acetate into pyruvate as a proof-of-concept.

Pyruvate is also a relatively simple precursor for virtually anything biology can make, such as pharmaceuticals, vitamins, and flavorings, according to Kirst. Nevertheless, we believe the whole concept is very common to several other metabolic pathways that might be helpful to explore.

They are not the only ones who believe so.

In a commentary about the research, Volker Muller said the system described here may be used as a platform in ambitious engineering projects. He has previously been not involved in the project.

''This is exciting and opens the way for people to utilize the technique to construct (bacterial microcompartments) for the production of various compounds from low-cost substrates, according to the author.

Bacterial microcompartments are similar to the organelles or tiny organs found in eukaryotes'' cells, including plants, humans, and other animals. Although they are found in many different types of bacteria, where they help to execute a variety of reactions, they are still relatively new to science. Kerfeld said the advent of high-resolution electron microscopy and affordable gene sequencing allowed researchers to understand how widespread and versatile these compartments are.

The Spartan researchers have demonstrated how they can make versions of these compartments that aren''t found in nature.

Kerfeld claims that he can design the compartment and create a completely new kind of reaction. This technique may be used in many different ways for several different applications, even if bacteria aren''t compatible.

Kirst said, "I think that''s the major achievement." We made a significant advance toward making a synthetic bacterial organelle.

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