Researchers discover a new way to enhance understanding of genetic research

Researchers at the University of Bristol will be using a combination of laboratory and computational genome engineering for enhanced study of genetic manipulation. Supercomputers will be used for studying the design of smaller genomes, thus advancing genetic research.

Genomes represent a complete set of genes or genetic material within a cell or an organism. These building blocks of DNA are counted with regards to their number of base pairs.

Genetic variety and gene functions is an expansive topic in the field of biology and is widely studied. Experts reveal the size of genomes can be vast and are diverse based on the various types of organisms, from a bacterium with 160,000 base pairs (Carsonella ruddi) to humans, with three billion base pairs (Homo sapiens).

The study of genomes can help to understand the role of every gene within a cell. Previous study in genetic research has created smaller genomes. These were chemically grown within a lab (Hutchison III et al.).

The latest study published in Nature Communications reveals a new way to design a smaller genome with the help of a computer.

Since computational ways to design a genome are less, the team of researchers at Bristol have created algorithms which run on Bristol’s supercomputers. These have helped to design smaller and simpler genomes which can be easily manipulated.

Furthermore, the team tested designs within a computerized cell model in order to observe if cells are able to grow and divide. According to sources, the researchers intend to apply these designs within real cells in the future.

In addition, smaller genomes created through computational methods will also help in understanding their properties which can further be manipulated for various purposes.

In the wake of the new announcement, Professor Claire Grierson, Head of the School of Biological Sciences and senior author of the paper, explained, “The work has implications beyond making smaller genomes. If we can use supercomputers to design a smaller genome, then we can get them to design cells to do anything we like.

“Perhaps we can design cells that turn cheap waste material into feedstock or make a specific medicine. This is exciting for the future of cell design.”