"We have shown that it's possible to independently tune the amplitude and frequency of genetic clocks, giving us greater control over their output," said Guy-Bart Stan from Imperial's Department of Bioengineering.
Currently, host bacterial cells are genetically altered to express genes that control the expression of desired proteins.
Genetic oscillators were some of the first bio-circuits constructed in synthetic biology and have already been used in various applications.
In the study published in the journal Cell Systems, the researchers used computer modelling to unravel the links between amplitude and frequency in current genetic oscillators, and, based on this, proposed new design principles to control amplitude and frequency independently.
These newly designed genetic clocks could help build more complex genetic networks for drug delivery, and even introduce a personalised medicine element.
Oscillators can be manipulated by external cues. For example, the day/night cycle influences the genes that control the release of melatonin, increasing its levels at night to induce and maintain sleepiness.
Scientists are increasingly giving genetic oscillators to engineered cells, to help them control the release of drugs, biofuels, and other chemicals.
Yet until now it has been difficult to control the frequency and amplitude of oscillations separately.
Now, researchers have shown new ways of better controlling genetic oscillations by tuning the desired amplitude and frequency.
This could let cells 'budget' resources by reducing the amount of time that genes stay 'on', which cuts the energy burden and the accumulation of toxic compounds in the cell.
It would streamline the process of producing drugs, biofuels, and other chemicals, making operations more productive and efficient.
The new study has shown new ways of better controlling genetic oscillations by tuning the desired amplitude and frequency.
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