NU engineer reprograms cells to combat malaria worldwidePosted: May 25, 2012
In a developed world, we have hospitals and hospital labs with well-trained physicians and equipment. You don’t have that in resource-poor countries. We’re trying to take aspects of this hospital lab and program it into a cell, specifically a yeast cell – the exact same yeast you’d use to make your bread. By programming yeast DNA to be able to detect pathogens or other blood markers and having the yeast itself change colors, this could look like a diagnostic test, such as a pregnancy test. The strip is made of yeast, or has yeast on it, and yeast would change colors if you had a tuberculosis infection, or your iron levels were below a certain threshold, etc. Yeast is incredibly cheap. There are many drugs that we make now that are approved drugs that are known to be effective. We are reducing cost of synthesis by using yeast as a factory; that is, using yeast cells as an actual way to convert raw material into a product. Through that, you can make compounds with much less starting material, so costs can go down.