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Synthetic biology in the real world: Case studies

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A sustainable source of omega-3?

By Caroline Channing

The primary sources of omega-3 in humans is via the consumption of fish, however, fish do not produce omega-3 themselves, but accumulate it from the food they eat. Farmed fish are fed on fishmeal and fish-oil, which contain high levels of omega-3, however this is unsustainable and an alternative source of omega-3 is needed.

Researchers from Rothamsted have successfully engineered Camelina plants to produce omega-3. The plants recently tested in the field, and were shown to be stable and produce useful quantities of omega-3.  

This provides hope for sustainable land-based sources of omega-3 fish oils, thereby releasing pressure from the oceans.

Importantly, this study represents the most complex piece of plant metabolic engineering to undergo environmental release and field-scale evaluation, a process which will be essential for any synthetic biology crops in the future.

UK Strategic Plan for Synthetic Biology 2016

Click on the image above to download the UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016

New synthetic biology technologies are starting to offer exciting opportunities across a range of industries including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, biofuels and health.

Research Council funding in collaboration with a wide variety of national and international partners across academia and industry, is supporting the long-term growth of UK synthetic biology, development of a highly skilled workforce and an infrastructure to underpin and enable cutting edge research in industry and academia, as well as providing support for synthetic biology start-up companies.

The pervasive potential of synthetic biology is brought to life through a series of case studies ranging from a biosensor toolkit with the ability to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes through to using enzymes from yeast mould to unlock cleaner routes to producing biofuel.

The wide ranging applications of synthetic biology will play an important role in growing the UK's bioeconomy, creating new jobs and ensuring the UK is a world leader in this area.

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