Using artificial intelligence, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden have succeeded in designing synthetic DNA that controls the cells’ protein production.
The technology can contribute to the development and production of vaccines and drugs for severe diseases much faster and at lower cost.
Last year, a research group at Chalmers, led by Aleksej Zelezniak, Associate Professor of Systems Biology, took an important step in understanding and controlling how much of a protein is made from a certain DNA sequence.
“First it was about being able to fully ‘read’ the DNA molecule’s instructions. Now we have succeeded in designing our own DNA that contains the exact instructions to control the quantity of a specific protein,” said Aleksej Zelezniak.
The AI designs synthetic DNA, where it is easy to modify its regulatory information in the desired direction of gene expression.
The researchers have developed their method in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, whose cells resemble mammalian cells. The next step is to use human cells. The researchers hope that their progress will have an impact on the development of new as well as existing drugs.
“Protein-based drugs for complex diseases or alternative sustainable food proteins can take many years and can be extremely expensive to develop. Some are so expensive that it is impossible to obtain a return on investment, making them economically nonviable. With our technology, it is possible to develop and manufacture proteins much more efficiently so that they can be marketed,” added Zelezniak.