Using an approach based on CRISPR proteins, MIT researchers have developed a new way to precisely control the amount of a particular protein that is produced in mammalian cells.
This technique could be used to finely tune the production of useful proteins, such as the monoclonal antibodies used to treat cancer and other diseases, or other aspects of cellular behavior. In their new study, which appears in Nature Communications, the researchers showed that this system can work in a variety of mammalian cells, with very consistent results.
“It’s a highly predictable system that we can design up front and then get the expected outcome,” says William C.W. Chen, a former MIT research scientist. “It’s a very tunable system and suitable for many different biomedical applications in different cell types.”
Chen, who is now an assistant professor of biomedical sciences at the University of South Dakota, is one of the lead authors of the new study, along with former MIT Research Scientist Leonid Gaidukov and postdoc Yong Lai. Senior author Timothy Lu led the research as an MIT associate professor of biological engineering and of electrical engineering and computer science.
Many therapeutic proteins, including monoclonal antibodies, are produced in large bioreactors containing mammalian cells that are engineered to generate the desired protein. Several years ago, researchers in MIT’s Synthetic Biology Center, including Lu’s lab, began working with Pfizer Inc. on a project to develop synthetic biology tools that could be used to boost the production of these useful proteins.
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