Artificial endosymbionts


Image: Buchnera aphidicola photo from Wikimedia Commons

Weird things that pop up in my Google Scholar Alerts: This morning I was alerted to a patent application for “artificial endosymbionts” (and methods pertaining to them) which were incorporated into a bunch of different types of mammalian cells! These included human T-cells, neural cells, stem cells, and cancer cells, among others.  The artificial endosymbiont is a magnetotactic bacterium with a fluorescent reporter, and the bacteria are passed on to the host’s daughter cells.

I guess I shouldn’t be so blown away by this “invention” – there’s nothing that crazy about the idea – and no doubt I’m not grasping a fraction of the applications for this technology. Still, this is such a clever way to alter a cell’s heritable phenotype without directly modifying any of the cell’s nuclear or mitochondrial genomes. (And for the time being I will blissfully ignore any potential pitfalls of intellectual property or of the ways in which new biotechnologies are often utilized in our economic system.)

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