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HESI Lecture

13:00–14:00 HESI Lecture
Location Slovak National Theatre (SNT) – Opera Hall


Synthetic biology tools in biology and toxicology

Louise Horsfall
University of Edinburgh, UK  

Novel interdisciplinary approaches, such as synthetic biology, are generating exciting new opportunities to address long-standing ecological and human health risks in the environment. Biotechnology has the potential to transform manufacturing by using waste as a resource and to exploit renewable resources for the production of biofuels and biomaterials.  Sustainable innovation can be created by combining the fields of synthetic biology with nanoparticle technology; metallic nanoparticles can be used in creating tools for synthetic biology, and conversely the use of synthetic biology could itself be utilized to create nanoparticle tools.  The small size of metal nanoparticles makes them excellent candidates for catalysts but further properties, unrelated to the bulk material, emerge from their nanosize and allow them to be used in a much wider range of applications.  There are a number of organisms which are able to produce a range of metallic nanoparticles naturally. Building on this, the proteins involved in biological nanoparticle synthesis can be manipulated and the pathways engineered in order to produce more valuable nanoparticles, perhaps even with sizes and shapes tailored to their desired function.  Furthermore, in engineering organisms to reduce metals and synthesise nanoparticles, we can facilitate the bioremediation of waste, water and land.  Overall, emerging technologies can tackle key health and environmental challenges by offering new approaches based on synthetic biology where naturally occurring solutions are modified by precise engineering. However, broad adoption and implementation of these approaches may require equally innovative toxicological and risk assessment practices.





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