In one of a series of seven papers published this week, a team of researchers have designed five yeast chromosomes – 30% of the entire genome – completely synthetically. The genome of the yeast species S. cerevisiae – the same used to bake bread – consists of sixteen chromosomes containing the DNA. The project, titled the Synthetic Yeast Project, aims to have a complete genome compiled by the end of 2017.
By designing a complete yeast genome, researchers could use these new cells as tools to mimic human diseases, drugs, and nutrition at a cellular level with unprecedented levels of control. The structure of a yeast cell is remarkably similar to that of a human cell but allowing for easy manipulation and production. As one of the first genomes to be mapped by the Human Genome Project, yeast stands out as one of the most important organisms in genetic research and the perfect start-point for synthesis.
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