October 16, 2019, Nina Maria Tremblay
(Pamela Silver mentioned)
November 5, 2019, Adam Zewe
Students engineer blood vessel receptors to signal life-threatening conditions.
(iGEM team mentored by Tim Chang)
October 14, 2019, Jeremy Deaton
Tiny animals with an outsized ability to survive in harsh environments, tardigrades are widely used in scientific research.
(Roger Larken Chang is quoted)
October 12, 2019, Gretchen Lidicker
(Pamela Silver quoted)
October 11, 2019, Niko McCarty
(interview with Marika Ziesack)
October 11, 2019, Wyss Institute
(Pamela Silver and David Riglar are quoted)
September 24, 2019, Caitlin McDermott-Murphy
(Pamela Silver is mentioned)
September 13, 2019, Jonathan Saltzman
(Pamela Silver is mentioned)
August 15, 2019, Lindsay Brownell
(Marika Ziesack and Pamela Silver quoted)
July 3, 2019, The Biomedical Scientist
Following the creation of artificial E. coli, we look at the history of those pushing the boundaries in the field of synthetic biology (Finn Stirling quoted)
July 9, 2019, Lindsay Brownell
The 18th installation of the acclaimed series explores Biofuturism through art and design (Pamela Silver mentioned)
June 28, 2019, Lindsay Brownell
Synthetic bacterial memory circuits enable microbial diagnostics for sensing biomolecules in the gut (Pamela Silver, David Riglar, and Alexander Naydich are quoted)
June 21, 2019, Engineering Biology Research Consortium
June 18, 2019, Robert F. Service
June 10, 2019, Harvard Gazette
June 10, 2019, Timothy Chang and Lorena Lyon
June 6, 2019, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Study finds that bacteriophages can have a cascade of effects on the microbiome and change metabolite levels, with implications for therapeutic use
June 5, 2019, Lindsay Brownell
From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters – Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Wyss Institute is creating a more sustainable future (Pamela Silver is quoted)
May 30, 2019, Conagen Inc.
Board includes five world-leading scientists in the fields of Synthetic Biology and Applied Molecular Biology (including Pamela Silver)
May 23, 2019, Adam Bluestein
A metabolic slowdown would press pause on the body until surgeons can repair damage. How close is it to becoming a reality? (Roger Larken Chang is quoted)
May 15, 2019, Carl Zimmer
In a milestone for synthetic biology, colonies of E. coli thrive with DNA constructed from scratch by humans, not nature. (Finn Stirling and James Kuo are quoted)
April 30, 2019, Kevin Jiang
Katherine Redfield, a Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology MD student in the lab of Pamela Silver, the Elliott T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at HMS, spoke about “Engineering A Novel Approach to Pancreatitis.”
April 19, 2019, Tim Stephens
PBSci Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize contributions to society by graduate and undergraduate alums, honors Pamela Silver
April 1, 2019, Hannah Osborne
The end goal of Biostasis is to add a new class of tools to the human health toolbox that can protect biological systems from collapse after damage. Medical professionals already have lots of ways to help the body cope with insult and aid in the elimination of infectious organisms, but we do not currently have any approaches that work by slowing down the types of cascading molecular events that ultimately lead to the collapse of the system.
March 14, 2019, M.R.F. Buckley
Poster Winner Katherine Redfield Chan Takes Judah Folkman Prize for Clinical/Translational Science Research
“Fusion protein therapeutic for pancreatitis”
On International Women’s Day, meet some of the extraordinary women at the Wyss Institute who are changing the world.
March 8, 2019, Rob Stein
“It’s a new world of being able to use synthetic biology to program microbes to treat diseases, which I believe is the future,” says Pamela Silver.
February 15, 2019, Steph Yin
Researchers are drawing inspiration from the proteins that they think let hearty water bears cheat time by decelerating their biology.
January 25, 2019, Ekaterina Pesheva
Could an extremophile hold the secret to redefining the treatment of devastating injuries? Proteins produced by the tardigrade are suspected of playing a role in the organism’s resilience, ultimately providing the basis for human therapies that halt tissue damage and prevent cell death.
Dec 1, 2018, Amber Dance
Microbes, traditionally thought to lack organelles, get a metabolic boost from geometric compartments that act as cauldrons for chemical reactions. Bioengineers are eager to harness the compartments for their own purposes.
December 17, 2018, Niko McCarty
Congrats to Cameron and Janice – Silver Lab alumni
October 15, 2018, Pamela Silver
Silver discusses her diverse work that tackles health-related issues, sustainability issues, climate change, and beyond, solutions to improve the way we live and interact with our world.
September 2, 2018, Christopher Bergland
In recent months, surprising evidence has emerged that commercially available probiotics containing “good bacteria for your gut microbiome” may not be the panacea most of us have come to believe.
August 31, 2018, Lindsay Brownell
With more than 1,000 species of bacteria identified in the human gut, understanding this incredibly diverse biological ecosystem can impact health and disease. As they do, scientists may be setting the stage for creating synthetic microbiomes that can record information about the state of the gut in real time, or report the presence of disease.
August 23, 2018, Anna Escher, Connie Loizos, Lucas Matney, Jonathan Shieber, Anthony Ha
Fifty-nine startups took the stage at Y Combinator’s Demo Day 2, and among the highlights were a company that helps developers manage in-app subscriptions; a service that lets you create animojis from real photos; and a surplus medical equipment-reselling platform. Oh… and there was also a company that’s developed an entirely new kind of life form using e coli bacteria. So yeah, that’s happening.
July 24, 2018, Scientific American Custom Media
After slipping a thumb-size silicon microprocessor into a small beaker filled with water, Daniel Nocera turns on a light. Instantly, bubbles stream from the chip.
July 12, 2018, Laine Higgins
When the human genome sequence was first mapped in 2001, the thought of using such genetic code to print vaccines on a lab bench was far from reality.
June 19, 2018, Nell Greenfieldboyce
New genetic tools are making it easier and cheaper to engineer viruses and bacteria, and a report commissioned by the Department of Defense has now ranked the top threats posed by the rapidly advancing field of “synthetic biology.”
We are so thrilled to be announcing a new partnership with iGEM (the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition). As sponsors, we’ll be supporting iGEM’s future growth and the growth of the community of synthetic biologists that they have built.
June 1, 2018
Karmella Haynes, Ph.D. is making waves in biological engineering by using a cutting-edge research approach called synthetic biology to break down barriers to understanding how human chromosomes work. She is currently a Principle Investigator (PI) who is leading her own research team at a tissue culture and DNA engineering laboratory that she launched at Arizona State University in 2011.
May 15, 2018, Aaron Dy
We continue to improve our ability to read, write, and edit DNA on larger and larger scales. GP-write wants to gather and coordinate the global enthusiasm around large-scale genome engineering to bring about some major advancements in several areas. Overall, they have the goal to reduce of cost of building and testing large genomes by over 1,000-fold within ten years. This major reduction in cost would require large improvements in methods and technology, but large-scale projects like the synthesis of a human genome may be what’s needed to push the field to that point.
March 30, 2018, Benjamin Boettner
Organisms that died many millions of years ago are the source of today’s natural petroleum resources. As phytoplankton and zooplankton, they sank to the bottom of ancient oceans and formed sediments under ground, and were exposed to extreme heat and pressure. This process turned the molecules that built all of their outer and inner membranes, known as fatty acids, into the main hydrocarbon component of petroleum.
March 8, 2018, PSFK
“Proud of former lab member Christina Agapakis who is doing such original work.”
March 6, 2018, Pamela Silver and Jeffrey Way
A mysterious meteor has struck at the base of a lighthouse creating a gauzy, slowly expanding field–the ‘Shimmer.’ Thus begins Alex Garland’s film ANNIHILATION. The U.S. Government has sent in teams of armed soldiers to investigate the Shimmer, and only one very damaged soldier has returned. While the previous failed teams have been all male, this time an all-female group of military badasses–most of whom also have advanced degrees in biology or physics–enters the Shimmer.
February 16, 2018, Amy L. Jia and Sanjana L. Narayanan
Researchers in the Chemistry department and at Harvard Medical School are exploring new applications for a “bionic leaf” that can generate liquid fuel and other valuable resources using only sunlight, air, and water.
January 31, 2018, Alvin Powell
With eye on population growth, postdoc teams with Silver, Nocera on project to aid agriculture in developing world. As the global population rises toward 10 billion, the planet is headed for a food shortage, with some estimates saying supply will have to double by 2050 to meet demand.
January 29, 2018, Aaron DY
I wrote about engineered probiotics at the beginning of 2017, and the field continued throughout 2017 with more papers and startup news using engineered bacteria in the gut. For instance, one paper used engineered probiotics to attack Pseudomonas aeruginosa gut infection and another used engineered probiotics to treat phenylketonuria (PKU is genetic disorder that prevents breakdown of the amino phenylalanine). I was particularly interested in a pair of papers – one from Pam Silver’s lab at Harvard and one from Jeff Tabor’s lab at Rice University – described new sensors in bacteria so that they can detect inflammation in the mammalian gut. This type of work shows how probiotic-based diagnostics can provide measurements from directly inside your gut without invasive procedures.
January 25, 2018, Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc.
We are excited to see the success of KPTI at bringing nuclear transport inhibitors to the clinic.
January 24, 2018, Kendall Powell
For all the excitement surrounding the gene-editing tool CRISPR, it is not that efficient or precise. It’s hard to make many changes at once. My lab has set the record so far — making 62 modifications to the genome of a single cell — but we have compelling applications that need a greater number of simultaneous changes. Now, however, we have the technologies required to make this feasible.
December 10, 2017, Aditi Risbud
“Pam Silver, Ph.D., is the Elliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. As the first director of the Harvard University graduate program in systems biology, Silver and her team seek to enhance understanding of natural biological design, and to develop tools and concepts for designing cells, tissues and organisms.”
November 30, 2017, Chunk Mui
“If you’re looking for a healthy dose of optimism, make sure to pick up the December issue of Scientific American. Tucked into the venerable magazine’s pages is a special report on the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2017.”
“There’s an app for that.” Get ready for a cutting-edge twist on this common phrase. In the life sciences, researchers in the field of synthetic biology are engineering microbes to execute specific tasks, like diagnosing gut inflammation, purifying dirty water, and cleaning up oil spills. Here are five academic and commercial projects underway now that will make you want to add the term “designer bacteria” to your vocab.”
November 16, 2017, Wyss Institute News
“Scientists at Harvard have developed a pair of new kill switches that can be used to thwart bioengineered microbes that go rogue. Researchers have been testing the use of bioengineered microbes for a variety of purposes, from the diagnosis of disease in the human body to the neutering of mosquitoes.”
September 7, 2017, Wyss Institute News
“Tobias Giessen, Ph.D., a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute and Harvard Medical School working in Pam Silver’s lab, has been awarded the Leopoldina Prize for Young Scientists by the German National Academy of Sciences. The award will be presented during the ceremony of the annual assembly of the German National Academy of Sciences on Friday, September 22, 2017 in Halle (Saale), Germany.”
September 6, 2017, Lindsay Brownell, Wyss Institute Communications
“Bacterial infections are the No. 1 cause of death in hospital patients in the U.S., and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise, causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. Understanding exactly how antibiotics work, or don’t, is crucial for developing alternative treatment strategies, both to target new “superbugs” and to make existing drugs more effective against their targets.”
July 26, 2017, Mary Altaffer/AP, CBS News
“At Jef Boeke’s lab, you can whiff an odor that seems out of place, as if they were baking bread here.
But he and his colleagues are cooking up something else altogether: yeast that works with chunks of.”
July 21, 2017, Mary Bates, Bioengineering Today
“The gut has a lot to tell us about our health. However, it is difficult to access this information. As an alternative to invasive and costly procedures like colonoscopies, researchers are looking at using live, engineered bacteria to diagnose and treat diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diabetes and more.”
July 19, 2017, Fred Thys, WBUR News
“Mars’ atmosphere is composed mainly of carbon dioxide. That’s potential food for the bacteria Nangle works with. Those bacteria can turn carbon dioxide into a variety of useful compounds, including a kind of plastic that could be used to build things astronauts would need on Mars.”
June 26, 2017, Javier Garcia Martinez, Scientific American
The notion of an artificial leaf makes so much sense. Leaves, of course, harness energy from the sun to turn carbon dioxide into the carbohydrates that power a plant’s cellular activities. For decades, scientists have been working to devise a process similar to photosynthesis to generate a fuel that could be stored for later. This could solve a major challenge of solar and wind power—providing a way to stow the energy when the sun is not shining and the air is still.
June 26, 2017, Oliver Cann, World Economic Forum
A diverse range of breakthrough technologies, including “artificial leaves” that turn CO2 into fuel, and a technique that harvests water from air, could soon be playing a role in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges, according to a list published today by the World Economic Forum.
June 10, 2017, Bob McDonald, CBC Radio
Bacteria can be engineered to perform various tasks. For example bacteria has been engineered to make valuable proteins for medical use, and to make enzymes that are used to help degrade toxic chemicals when spills occur. But a new study by Dr. David Riglar from the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School in Boston has engineered bacteria in the gut of mice for diagnostic purposes.
May 29, 2017, Eriona Hysolli
Our approach is to use the bacteria’s sensing ability to monitor the environment in unhealthy tissue or organs. By adding gene circuits that retain memory, we envision giving humans probiotics that record disease progression by a simple and non-invasive fecal test,” said Riglar. Silver’s team plans to extend this work to sensing inflammation in the human gut and also to develop new sensors detecting signs of a variety of other conditions.
16 May 2017, Harvard Gazette
In 1960s Silicon Valley Pamela Silver came of age part math nerd, part rebel, absorbing the spirit of both time and place. Think space race. Think Grateful Dead.
She set out on her scientific career without a plan, propelled by an aptitude for math, an interest in science, and a love of the sometimes frenzied life of the laboratory. That love fueled groundbreaking work on how proteins make their way from the cytoplasm of a cell into the nucleus, a process called nuclear localization. Decades and many discoveries later, the same passion helped establish her as a leader in the fledgling field of synthetic biology.
Silver was recently named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the Elliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology.
April 12, 2017, Harvard Gazette
Those elected from Harvard include Alan M. Garber, provost of Harvard University and the Mallinckrodt Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; John A. Quelch, Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration; Jonathan L. Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law; David Charbonneau, professor of astronomy; Pamela A. Silver, Elliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS); Hopi E. Hoekstra, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and curator of mammals in the Museum of Comparative Zoology; Myles A. Brown, professor of medicine at HMS; Marc J. Melitz, David A. Wells Professor of Political Economy; Torben Iversen, Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy; Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies; Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science; David Damrosch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature; Alina Payne, Alexander P. Misheff Professor of History of Art and Architecture. Gerald L. Chan, S.M. ’75, S.D. ’79, and his brother Ronnie C. Chan, sons of the late T.H. Chan and benefactors to the Harvard School of Public Health, were also named fellows.
5 April 2017, Popular Science
A bionic leaf created by Harvard professors Daniel Nocera and Pamela Silver keeps proving itself to be as cool as—and maybe even cooler than—its natural counterpart.
6 March 2017, Harvard Gazette
The bionic leaf, a proof-of-concept platform pioneered by Harvard scientists, makes possible a cheap, nontoxic, portable device to create value-added products such as bioplastics for accelerating widespread adoption of solar and other renewable technologies, while simultaneously reducing CO2 emissions. This project will support work toward constructing a deployable bionic leaf that could provide a blueprint for bringing this technology to scale.
1 March 2017, PLoS blogs
Shannon Nangle finished her PhD ready to take on a new challenge and set her sights on research to help make Mars colonization possible. But she isn’t pursuing research on rocket fuels or space suits. She’s using synthetic biology to improve biomanufacturing of needed resources using simple inputs like sunlight, water, and CO2.
6 March 2017, Wyss Institute
“Within their new hosts, these encapsulin systems could form capsids with very defined sizes on the nanoscale. These artificially expressed systems were able to protect the cells from high doses of different stressors that are also produced as byproducts of their normal metabolism. Some systems were also able to mineralize and store otherwise toxic iron, while still others may be involved in the so-called anammox process, which generates free dinitrogen from ammonium and nitrite with the rocket fuel hydrazine being an intermediate,” said Giessen, who is working with Silver at the Wyss Institute and HMS as a Postdoctoral Fellow.
22 Jan 2017, NDTV
Harvard chemist and energy innovator Daniel G. Nocera is a man on a “renewable” mission. The inventor of the artificial leaf and co-creator of its bionic version plans to launch a pilot of the advanced technology in India with the assertion that a “renewable energy revolution will take place” in the country.
16 Dec 2016, Aldo Leopold Nature Center
Although a great deal of Silver’s work is with novel therapies for humans and livestock, she can’t ignore concerns about our planet’s need to adapt to bionic_leafincreasing amounts of carbon in the atmosphere. Using her knowledge in synthetic biology, Silver partnered with Daniel Nocera, a leading Harvard researcher in renewable energy and biological systems, to see if they could re-program cells to increase efficiency of photosynthetic rates and carbon fixation in plants. Out of this collaboration came what they call the ‘bionic leaf.’
20 Dec 2016, Wyss Institute
“The ultimate example of systems biology is the interactions that happen between the earth and atmosphere that fuel our entire biosphere and world,” said Silver. “We hope to illuminate an until-now dark corner of the nitrogen cycle that could have broad implications for the earth as a whole.”
5 Dec 2016, Menzies Foundation
Imagine reducing the need for invasive gut tests like colonoscopies or developing bacteria in your gut which could help manage your own inflammatory conditions.
These are some of the potential futures for patients with inflammatory bowel disease being explored in Dr David Riglar’s research at Harvard Medical School and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
21 Nov 2016, Katherine Bourzac
To get around the problem of efficiently making more valuable chemicals at higher purity, some researchers are turning back to the original inspiration: biology. Harvard University synthetic biologist Pamela Silver doesn’t think it’s necessary for chemists to twist themselves into knots trying to mimic biology. The question for her is how to use what biology has already given us. “Plants are the best chemists there are,” she says. “Trying to supplant that with pure chemistry” may be making things unnecessarily difficult. “How is this going to work if we don’t use biology?” she asks.
7 Oct 2016, Emma Bryce
Silver is working on “programming microbes that could sense and remember” environment information, and has found that bacteria can be engineered to detect a specific antibiotic inside mice and, when excreted, change colour to indicate its presence.
Outstanding Postdoc Service Award Recipient: David Riglar, PhD, Systems Biology
In conjunction with the 2016 National Postdoc Appreciation Week, the Office for Postdoctoral Fellows is partnering with the HMS/HSDM basic science departments to honor the achievements of some of our exceptional postdoctoral research fellows for their research accomplishments, while also considering all around scientific service.
in the Scientific American, 1 August 2016
Chemist Daniel Nocera of Harvard University and his team joined forces with synthetic biologist Pamela Silver of Harvard Medical School and her team to craft a kind of living battery, which they call a bionic leaf for its melding of biology and technology.
in c&en, 5 July 2016
To make these minuscule metal globs, Pamela A. Silver and Tobias W. Giessen of Harvard University turned to a 20-sided capsulelike structure in bacteria known as encapsulin, which holds iron-storing proteins that pack the capsule full of iron. The researchers removed the gene that encodes encapsulin’s iron-storing protein from Thermotoga maritima bacteria and replaced it with the sequence for a short protein that precipitates elemental silver instead. Then they transferred the entire genetic piece into an easy-to-grow laboratory strain of Escherichia coli. As a result, these structures in the engineered E. coli stuffed themselves with silver from their growth medium, forming symmetrical nanoparticles about 13 to 15 nm in diameter. The team broke open the cells to isolate and purify the nanoparticles.
in the Harvard News, 17 June 2016
“Traditionally, synthetic biology has been very good at making organics—either protein drugs or small organic molecules like antibiotics,” said first author Tobias Giessen, research fellow in systems biology in the Silver lab. “Now the field is starting to be capable of using biology to make functional inorganic materials, such as these nanoparticles that can fight infection.”
Featured publication: Converting a natural protein compartment into a nanofactory for the size-constrained synthesis of antimicrobial silver nanoparticles. Giessen T, Silver PA. ACS Synthetic Biology. In press.
23 June 2016
Three leading Harvard Medical School researchers share their discoveries and innovative approaches to complex scientific questions.
at the World Science Festival, 4 June 2016
For decades, biologists have read and edited DNA, the code of life. Revolutionary developments are giving scientists the power to write it. Instead of tinkering with existing life forms, synthetic biologists may be on the verge of writing the DNA of a living organism from scratch. In the next decade, according to some, we may even see the first synthetic human genome. Join a distinguished group of synthetic biologists, geneticists and bioengineers who are edging closer to breathing life into matter.
in the Washington Post, by Sarah Kaplan, 2 June 2016
On Thursday, Silver and her colleagues report in the journal Science that they’ve combined solar panels, genetically modified bacteria and a synthetic catalyst to create a system that does exactly what a leaf does — turn sunshine into fuel — but much more efficiently.
in STAT news, by Ike Swetlitz, 18 May 2016
Pamela Silver, a Harvard bioengineer who was invited to but did not attend last Tuesday’s meeting, said that taking the genome apart (with new gene-editing techniques likeCRISPR) and putting it together (through synthesis) are “complementary” methods: “No one is better than the other.”
Alina Chan, a postdoctoral researcher in Silver’s lab who gave a presentation about her work at last week’s meeting, is in the early stages of trying to put all these elements together to build and test human artificial chromosomes, the first step in making the real thing. Chan said that even if scientists were able to build a human genome from the ground up, it would be a far cry from a real person.
“Being able to write a book doesn’t mean the story actually becomes real,” Chan said.
in Science Signaling, by Annalisa M VanHook, 17 May 2016
Burrill et al. engineered a form of EPO that activates EPO-R specifically on RBC precursors, but not on other cell types. Because many signaling molecules affect multiple types of cells, similar engineering strategies to create forms that are tissue- or cell type–specific may permit the development of therapies that deliver a benefit while reducing or eliminating undesirable side effects.
Featured publication: D. R. Burrill, A. Vernet, J. J. Collins, P. A. Silver, J. C. Way, Targeted erythropoietin selectively stimulates red blood cell expansion in vivo. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113, 5245–5250 (2016). [PubMed]
28 April 2016
Jane Coffin Childs Fellow Jessica Polka demonstrates the engineering potential of a unique protein polymer.
“There’s so much unique biology in non-model organisms, some of which is beautifully described by older literature,” she explains. “With DNA sequencing and synthesis technologies becoming more readily available, we can revisit these phenomena with modern tools. Perhaps these edge cases are the best systems to use to understand what biology is really capable of.”
Featured publication: A tunable protein piston that breaks membranes to release encapsulated cargo. Polka J, Silver PA. ACS Synthetic Biology. PMID: 26814170.
26 April 2016
“Compared to currently available EPO drugs, our molecule is engineered to prevent EPO from binding to and activating cells that promote side effects such as blood clotting or tumor growth,” said Jeffrey Way, Ph.D., Wyss Institute Senior Staff Scientist and the senior author on the study. “This cell-targeted EPO approach demonstrates a new theoretical basis for the rational design of engineered protein fusion drugs.”
Starting at 2:12 from the end, released 3 March 2016
In response to The Future of Renewable Energy podcast
Renewable energy could be the key to ensuring the future prosperity and health of Planet Earth and humankind. In this very special episode, we sit down and discuss the possibilities with Bill Gates.
Ed Yong, 17 Feb 2016
Billions of years before hominids sharpened sticks into stabbing weapons, bacteria invented spears. Specifically, they invented transforming spears—structures that could almost instantly unfold from flat, coiled ribbons into long, pointed cylinders. They use these weapons to wage war on other microbes. And now, scientists—descendants of those early stick-sharpening hominids—are planning to tweak these bacterial javelins, and deploy them as tools for research, medicine, and more.
Breaking cell barriers with retractable protein nanoneedles in the Wyss Press Release
11 Feb 2016
Described in the American Chemical Society Synthetic Biology journal, the team describes using protein polymers known as “R bodies”, which are found in certain bacteria, as retractable nanoneedles that can extend to puncture cellular membranes and release molecules on command.
Featured publication: A tunable protein piston that breaks membranes to release encapsulated cargo. Polka J, Silver PA. ACS Synthetic Biology. PMID: 26814170.
Tapping the Marine Microbiome in the Wyss Press Release
22 Dec 2015
“The realization that we know so little about the Earth’s oceans, along with the advent of modern experimental techniques such as next generation sequencing and advanced microscopy methods, prompts me to believe that some of the major advances in the fields ranging from basic biochemistry, enzymology, metabolism, signaling, microbial interactions, and ecology, to medicinal natural products discovery, biomaterials, biogeochemistry, and origins of life will come from the oceans over the next few decades,” said Turnsek.
9 December 2015
Silver, a biologist at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in Cambridge, Mass., wants to try to improve on nature. By altering the DNA of gut-dwelling microbes, she and her colleagues are designing organisms that can monitor the body and produce drugs on demand. Someday, Silver’s research could lead to a new way to treat our diseases: with living medicine.
Shining light on microbial growth and death inside our guts in a Wyss Institute press release
30 November 2015
“The dream in this field is to make cell–based computers, using cells that can remember, count, sense, actuate and complete tasks in a programmable way,” said Pamela Silver, Ph.D., who is senior author on the new study, a Wyss Institute Core Faculty member on the Institute’s Synthetic Biology platform, the Eliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professorship of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and a founder of the HMS Department of Systems Biology. “This advance brings us another step closer to making that original dream a reality.”
Featured publication: Myhrvold C, Kotula JW, Hicks WM, Conway NJ, Silver PA. (2015). A distributed cell division counter reveals growth dynamics in the gut microbiota. Nature Communications, 6: 10039. PMID: 26615910
Creators: MIT Media Lab Mediated Matter Gorup (Steven Keating, Neri Oxman, Will Patrick and Sunanda Sharma) with Deskriptiv, the Pamela Silver Lab at Harvard Medical School, and Stratasys
Most wearables convey a bit of information and not much more. But Neri Oxman, founder of the Mediated Matter research group at MIT, imagines a future where wearables aren’t just passive lifestyle devices: They could generate the food, energy, light, and oxygen to keep us alive. In a project dubbed Wanderers, Oxman proposes wearable vessels that have photosynthetic bacteria culturing inside, creating the resources that an interplanetary traveler would need to survive in other climates.
by Lucy Goodchild van Hilten, 16 September 2015
“Historically, molecular biologists engineered microbes as industrial organisms to produce different molecules,” said Dr. Silver. “The more we discovered about microbes, the easier it was to program them. We’ve now reached a very exciting phase in synthetic biology where we’re ready to apply what we’ve developed in the real world, and this is where safety is vital.”
Publication featured: Ford TJ and Silver PA. (2015). Synthetic biology expands control of microorganisms. Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, 28:20-28. PMID: 26056951
by Kevin Hartnett, 1 July 2015
“Anna interfaced the clock with transcription of genes that makes these colored proteins,” says Silver. “You could just look at cells and see that they were keeping time.”
Publication featured: Chen AH, Lubkowicz D, Yeong V, Chang RL and Silver PA. (2015). Transplantability of a circadian clock to a noncircadian organism. Science Advances. 1(5):e1500358.
“A new grant awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for up to $4.7 million dollars over the course of the work, will support the efforts of the project’s co–principal investigators Wyss Core Faculty member Pamela Silver, Ph.D., and Wyss Senior Staff Scientist Jeffrey Way, Ph.D., who will team up with Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. The cross–disciplinary Wyss team aims to fight gastrointestinal illness through tactics invisible to the naked eye by developing an army of genetically engineered bacteria designed to sense, report and combat harmful microbial invaders.”
by Ruth Williams, 12 June 2015
“Circadian clock machinery from cyanobacteria has been successfully reconstructed inside Escherichia coli bacteria, which do not have a natural day-night cycle, according to a paper published today (June 12) in Science Advances. The E. coli cells exhibited 24-hour-long repeating oscillations in both transcription of a reporter gene and phosphorylation of a key clock protein. The results serve as a proof of principle that engineering such a synthetic circadian circuit is possible.”
“Now, scientists led by the pioneering Harvard synthetic biologist Pamela Silver, Ph.D., have harnessed the circadian mechanism found in cyanobacteria to transplant the circadian wiring into a common species of bacteria that is naturally non–circadian. The novel work, which for the first time demonstrates the transplant of a circadian rhythm, is reported in a new study in Science Advances.”
Publication featured: Chen AH, Lubkowicz D, Yeong V, Chang RL and Silver PA. (2015). Transplantability of a circadian clock to a noncircadian organism. Science Advances. 1(5):e1500358.
Mushtari by Neri Oxman
14 May 2015
In collaboration with our lab, alongside members of the Mediated Matter research group and Deskriptiv, Oxman unveiled the 3D printed photosynthetic wearable on the TED2015 stage in Vancouver.
“This is the first time that 3D printing technology has been used to produce a photosynthetic wearable piece with hollow internal channels designed to house microorganism.” Inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract, Mushtari is designed to host synthetic microorganisms – a co-culture of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and E. coli bacteria – that can fluoresce bright colors in darkness and produce sugar or biofuels when exposed to the sun. Such functions will in the near future augment the wearer by scanning our skins, repairing damaged tissue and sustaining our bodies, an experiment that has never been attempted before.” – Oxman
The Wyss Institute Disruptive podcast, May 2015
In this inaugural episode, radio host Terrence McNally discusses with Wyss Core Faculty Pam Silver and George Church the high-impact benefits of their synthetic biology work, as well as how they manage potential unintended consequences.
by David Biello, 9 February 2015
by Alan Boyle, 9 February 2015
<< Ralstonia eutropha makes fuel using the hydrogen produced via catalysts powered by electric current from a photovoltaic panel.
Publication featured: Torella JP, Gagliardi CJ, Chen JS, Bediako DK, Colón B, Way JC, Silver PA & Nocera DG. (2015). Efficient solar-to-fuels production from a hybrid microbial-water-splitting catalyst system. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 112(8):2337-42. PMID: 25675518
Wyss Institute press release, 17 March 2014
<< Inspired by nature, the team engineered E. coli to sense, record and remember an environmental signal in the gut — and also demonstrated that they can survive and function within the complex environment of the mammalian gut. This work lays the foundation for the use of engineered probiotic bacteria that serve as non-destructive living diagnostics. In this schematic engineered probiotic E. coli have colonized the mammalian intestine and “remember” exposure to an environmental signal, which is indicated by the cells turning blue in color.
Publication featured: Kotula JW, Kerns SJ, Shaket LA, Siraj L, Collins JJ, Way JC and Silver PA. (2014). Programmable bacteria detect and record an environmental signal in the mammalian gut. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 111(13):4838-43. PMID: 24639514
Harvard Medical School news, 25 June 2013
<< By rerouting the metabolic pathway that makes fatty acids in E. coli bacteria like these, researchers have devised a new way to produce a gasoline-like biofuel. Image courtesy of Wyss Institute.
Publication featured: Torella JP, Ford TJ, Kim SN, Chen AM, Way JC and Silver PA. (2013). Tailored fatty acid synthesis via dynamic control of fatty acid elongation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 110(28):11290-5. PMID: 23798438