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Ron Weiss, PhD - "Mammalian Synthetic Biology: Foundation and Therapeutic Applications"

Department of Biological Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Director of the Synthetic Biology Center at MIT, USA
When Jul 24, 2018
from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM
Where Tigem, Auditorium "Vesuvius"
Contact Name
Contact Phone 08119230659
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Short CV

Synthetic biology is revolutionizing how we conceptualize and approach the engineering of biological systems. Recent advances in the field are allowing us to expand beyond the construction and analysis of small gene networks towards the implementation of complex multicellular systems with a variety of applications. In this talk I will describe our integrated computational / experimental approach to engineering complex behavior in a variety of cells, with a focus on mammalian cells. In our research, we appropriate design principles from electrical engineering and other established fields. These principles include abstraction, standardization, modularity, and computer aided design. But we also spend considerable effort towards understanding what makes synthetic biology different from all other existing engineering disciplines and discovering new design and construction rules that are effective for this unique discipline. We will briefly describe the implementation of genetic circuits and modules with finely-tuned digital and analog behavior and the use of artificial cell-cell communication to coordinate the behavior of cell populations. The first system to be presented is a multi-input genetic circuit that can detect and destroy specific cancer cells based on the presence or absence of specific biomarkers in the cell. We will also discuss preliminary experimental results for obtaining precise spatiotemporal control over stem cell differentiation for tissue engineering applications. We present a novel approach for generating and then co-differentiating hiPSC-derived progenitors with a genetically engineered pulse of GATA-binding protein 6 (GATA6) expression. We initiate rapid emergence of all three germ layers as a combined function of GATA6 expression levels and tissue context. We ultimately obtain a complex tissue that recapitulates early developmental processes and exhibits a liver bud-like phenotype that includes haematopoietic and stromal cells, as well as a neuronal niche. This complex organoid can be used for drug development and potentially for tissue transplantation.

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