Reprogramming mitochondrial translation for unnatural polymer synthesis
Biomedical Engineering & Chemistry
My group is interested in reengineering how molecular biological information is replicated, written, and read in living cells. This means we are interested in redesigning the processes of DNA replication, responsible for writing genetic information, and translation, responsible for reading genetic information into functional proteins. If we are successful, we will be able to endow cells with fundamentally new capabilities such as accelerated gene evolution and programmable synthesis of custom unnatural polymers.
Unfortunately, cells do not tolerate changes to the processes of DNA replication and translation, because all genes of a cell's genome rely on the exquisitely tuned properties of replication and translation. To overcome this, we are engineering cells that have second versions of replication and translation systems, ones that only write and read custom genetic information but do not act on the cell's genome. In this way, we bring DNA replication and protein translation under engineering control with the immediate goal of evolving new functional biopolymers and the longer-term goal of synthesizing genetics and life.