Germans take part in contest to make new forms of molecular life
Researchers from Freiburg University are among the 110 teams taking part in an international
competition to create new forms of biological life from a standard set of molecular biological
A group of 14 students from Freiburg University's biology department have entered this year's
International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM) at the Massachusetts Institute of
Equipped with pipettes and test tubes, the students began their work altering a standard set of
biological parts over the summer to build biological systems and operate them in living cells.
"It's a little different from your average internship," Gerrit Gresch said, holding a pipette full of liquid
over a plastic container.
Similar to a set of toy building blocks, the biological parts can be cut and rearranged to create new
molecular structures. While some of the applications for such work seem frivolous - like the bacteria
that blink like Christmas tree lights - others are more useful.
Restriction endonuclear... what?
The students in Freiburg set their sights on building a new set of chemical shears, called restriction
endonucleases. The project combines parts of enzymes to create one that, with the help of an
adapter, recognizes parts of DNA and is capable of separating it in an easier and more precise
manner than existing methods that exist in nature and the field of genetic engineering.