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Synthetic biology in the real world: Case studies

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Plants help clean up explosive-contaminated land

By Caroline Channing

Pollution from explosives can pose a risk to both the environment and public health. A sustainable alternative to current decontamination methods is needed, as they are expensive and environmental damaging.

Research by Professor Neil Bruce at the University of York has enabled plants to remove explosive contamination, including TNT and RDX, from soil and water. This was achieved by transferring the pollution degrading abilities of certain bacteria into plants. 

The research was originally funded by the BBSRC and the Ministry of Defence and has since attracted multi-million dollar backing from the US Department of Defense (DoD). Field trials at a US military site will be commencing in 2015.

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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