Towards electrogenetics: Integrating biofabrication, synthetic biology, and microelectronics

Conference Dates

July 14-18, 2019


We are developing tools of “biofabrication” that enable facile assembly of biological components within devices, including microelectronic devices, that preserve their native biological function. By recognizing that biological redox active molecules are a biological equivalent of an electron-carrying wire, we have developed biological surrogates for electronic devices, including a biological redox capacitor that enable bi-directional “electron” flow. We have also turned to synthetic biology to provide a means to sample, interpret and report on biological information contained in molecular communications circuitry. Finally, we have developed synthetic genetic circuits that enable electronic actuation of gene expression. That is, using simple reconstructions, one can apply voltage on an electrode and directly actuate genetic responses and associated phenotypes. Cells are stimulated to swim, make other signal molecules, and fluoresce. When stimulated to generate signal molecules, programmed devices are effective agents for modulating biological systems via native molecular means. We have further developed an electronically actuated CRISPR a/i system for simultaneous activation and inhibition of transgenes and host genes, respectively. By integrating engineered cells within hydrogel membranes, these methodologies enable “programmed” biological function. This presentation will introduce the concepts of molecular communication that are enabled by integrating relatively simple concepts in synthetic biology with biofabrication. Our presentation will show how engineered cells and “smart” films represent a versatile means for mediating the molecular “signatures” commonly found in complex environments, or in other words, they are conveyors of molecular communication. Importantly, these methodologies are suggested to enable first ever electronic control of biological production processes in a gene specific manner. Potential applications are abundant for the biopharmaceuticals industry and several specific demonstrations will be presented.

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