Breakthrough of the year 2015 and runners-up

This year’s breakthrough, according to the scientific journal Science, is the CRISPR/Cas system. Not that it’s brand new – it was first described in 2012, and it was one of the runners-up listed by Science for their 2014 breakthrough, but its use in labs all over the world has grown exponentially, and its achievements and promises have now made it famous beyond the walls of molecular biology labs.

In a nutshell, the CRISPR/Cas system is a genome-editing tool: it makes it possible to delete, insert, or modify pieces of DNA anywhere in the genome of a wide range of species and cell types. What makes it so powerful, compared to other genome-editing tools such as TALENs, is that it is inexpensive and relatively easy to use. Continue reading

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GMO sent to kill the pathogenic bacteria P. aeruginosa

Photo Credit: Janice Haney Carr/CDC

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacterium that can be found in many places, from soil and water to the surface of your skin or medical equipment. It is also a common nosocomial pathogen that can for example infect the lungs, burns or wounds and lead to pneumonia, sepsis or other infections with life-threatening consequences, especially in immunodepressed individuals. Unfortunately, P. aeruginosa is resistant to many antibiotics (and pretty good at developing resistance to new treatments), can survive and even thrive on many surfaces, and can organize in biofilms that are particularly difficult to destroy.

Synthetic biologists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have now created an Escherichia coli bacterium that specifically seeks out and kills P. aeruginosa. Continue reading