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Synthetic Biology underpins advances in the bioeconomy

Biological systems - including the simplest cells - exhibit a broad range of functions to thrive in their environment. Research in the Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology is focused on the possibility of engineering the underlying biochemical processes to solve many of the challenges facing society, from healthcare to sustainable energy. In particular, we model, analyse, design and build biological and biochemical systems in living cells and/or in cell extracts, both exploring and enhancing the engineering potential of biology. 

As part of our research we develop novel methods to accelerate the celebrated Design-Build-Test-Learn synthetic biology cycle. As such research in the Centre for Synthetic Biology highly multi- and interdisciplinary covering computational modelling and machine learning approaches; automated platform development and genetic circuit engineering ; multi-cellular and multi-organismal interactions, including gene drive and genome engineering; metabolic engineering; in vitro/cell-free synthetic biology; engineered phages and directed evolution; and biomimetics, biomaterials and biological engineering.



BibTex format

author = {Walker, K and Goosens, V and Das, A and Graham, A and Ellis, T},
doi = {10.1111/1751-7915.13340},
journal = {Microbial Biotechnology},
pages = {611--619},
title = {Engineered cell-to-cell signalling within growing bacterial cellulose pellicles},
url = {},
volume = {12},
year = {2019}

RIS format (EndNote, RefMan)

AB - Bacterial cellulose is a strong and flexible biomaterial produced at high yields by Acetobacter species and has applications in health care, biotechnology and electronics. Naturally, bacterial cellulose grows as a large unstructured polymer network around the bacteria that produce it, and tools to enable these bacteria to respond to different locations are required to grow more complex structured materials. Here, we introduce engineered celltocell communication into a bacterial celluloseproducing strain of Komagataeibacter rhaeticus to enable different cells to detect their proximity within growing material and trigger differential gene expression in response. Using synthetic biology tools, we engineer Sender and Receiver strains of K. rhaeticus to produce and respond to the diffusible signalling molecule, acylhomoserine lactone. We demonstrate that communication can occur both within and between growing pellicles and use this in a boundary detection experiment, where spliced and joined pellicles sense and reveal their original boundary. This work sets the basis for synthetic celltocell communication within bacterial cellulose and is an important step forward for pattern formation within engineered living materials.
AU - Walker,K
AU - Goosens,V
AU - Das,A
AU - Graham,A
AU - Ellis,T
DO - 10.1111/1751-7915.13340
EP - 619
PY - 2019///
SN - 1751-7915
SP - 611
TI - Engineered cell-to-cell signalling within growing bacterial cellulose pellicles
T2 - Microbial Biotechnology
UR -
UR -
VL - 12
ER -