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  • New Light for Phytochemicals
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-09-19
    Jarmo K. Holopainen, Minna Kivimäenpää, Riitta Julkunen-Tiitto

    Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting technology with narrow-bandwidth illumination helps to reduce energy consumption on covered crops. Here, we discuss how this new technology, which provides flexible modification of light spectra, will open new avenues for natural modulation of medicinal and crop plant metabolomes for better colour, flavour, fragrance, and antioxidant properties.

  • Deciphering Cell Intrinsic Properties: A Key Issue for Robust Organoid Production
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-09-17
    Nathalie Picollet-D’hahan, Monika E. Dolega, Delphine Freida, Donald K. Martin, Xavier Gidrol

    We highlight the disposition of various cell types to self-organize into complex organ-like structures without necessarily the support of any stromal cells, provided they are placed into permissive 3D culture conditions. The goal of generating organoids reproducibly and efficiently has been hampered by poor understanding of the exact nature of the intrinsic cell properties at the origin of organoid generation, and of the signaling pathways governing their differentiation. Using microtechnologies like microfluidics to engineer organoids would create opportunities for single-cell genomics and high-throughput functional genomics to exhaustively characterize cell intrinsic properties. A more complete understanding of the development of organoids would enhance their relevance as models to study organ morphology, function, and disease and would open new avenues in drug development and regenerative medicine.

  • Optical Imaging Paves the Way for Autophagy Research
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-09-12
    Yimin Wang, Yu Li, Fujing Wei, Yixiang Duan

    Autophagy is a degradation process in eukaryotic cells that recycles cellular components for nutrition supply under environmental stress and plays a double-edged role in development of major human diseases. Noninvasive optical imaging enables us to clearly visualize various classes of structures involved in autophagy at macroscopic and microscopic dynamic levels. In this review, we discuss important trends of emerging optical imaging technologies used to explore autophagy and provide insights into the mechanistic investigation and structural study of autophagy in mammalian cells. Some exciting new prospects and future research directions regarding optical imaging techniques in this field are also highlighted.

  • 3D Quantitative Chemical Imaging of Tissues by Spectromics
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-09-08
    Cyril Petibois

    Mid-infrared (IR), Raman, and X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy methods, as well as mass spectrometry (MS), can be used for 3D chemical imaging. These techniques offer an invaluable opportunity to access chemical features of biological samples in a nonsupervised way. The global chemical information they provide enables the exploitation of a large array of chemical species or parameters, so-called ‘spectromics’. Extracting chemical data from spectra is critical for the high-quality chemical analysis of biosamples. Furthermore, these are the only currently available techniques that can quantitatively analyze tissue content (e.g., molecular concentrations) and substructures (e.g., cells or blood vessels). The development of chemical-derived biological metadata appears to be a new way to exploit spectral information with machine learning algorithms.

  • Genome Editing for Global Food Security
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-09-08
    Xingliang Ma, Martin Mau, Timothy F. Sharbel

    Global food security is increasingly challenging in light of population increase, the impact of climate change on crop production, and limited land available for agricultural expansion. Here we outline how genome editing provides excellent and timely methods to optimize crop plants, and argue the urgency for societal acceptance and support.

  • Unlocking Marine Biotechnology in the Developing World
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-09-07
    Cristiane C. Thompson, Ricardo H. Kruger, Fabiano L. Thompson

    Fulfilling the promise of marine biotechnology as a source for environmental and biomedical applications remains challenging. New technologies will be necessary to harness marine biodiversity, and collaboration across government, academic, and private sectors will be crucial to create mechanisms of technology transfer and promote the development of new marine biotechnology companies.

  • Wastewater Opportunities for Denitrifying Anaerobic Methane Oxidation
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-03-08
    Yali Wang, Dongbo Wang, Qi Yang, Guangming Zeng, Xiaoming Li

    Denitrifying anaerobic methane oxidation (DAMO) can concurrently reduce methane emissions and nitrogen levels in aquatic environments, but how useful is this process? We propose the use of DAMO-based technology as a tool for sustainably operating wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs).

  • Ethnophytotechnology: Harnessing the Power of Ethnobotany with Biotechnology
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-24
    John de la Parra, Cassandra L. Quave

    Ethnobotany (the scientific study of traditional plant knowledge) has aided the discovery of important medicines. However, as single-molecule drugs or synergistic mixtures, these remedies have faced obstacles in production and analysis. Now, advances in bioreactor technology, metabolic engineering, and analytical instrumentation are improving the production, manipulation, and scientific understanding of such remedies.

  • Carbon Concentration in Algae: Reducing CO2 From Exhaust Gas
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-05-26
    Atreyee Ghosh, Bala Kiran

    Algal carbon-concentrating mechanisms can be used to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere, and the resulting biomass can produce various value-added products. Mechanisms for carbon concentration in algae are complex and sometimes inefficient. We need to understand how algae successfully overcome these challenges while capturing CO2 from their nearby environment.

  • Endolichenic Fungi: A Hidden Reservoir of Next Generation Biopharmaceuticals
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-03-28
    Brahma N. Singh, Dalip K. Upreti, Vijai K. Gupta, Xiao-Feng Dai, Yueming Jiang

    Endolichenic fungi (ELF) offer an opportunity to discover emerging natural drugs. ELF are promising bioresources given their ability to produce bioactive metabolites that represent unique and diverse structural classes. Here, we assess the potential of recent technologies to provide insight into the chemical diversity of ELF for biopharmaceutical development.

  • Microbiome Tools for Forensic Science
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-03-30
    Jessica L. Metcalf, Zhenjiang Z. Xu, Amina Bouslimani, Pieter Dorrestein, David O. Carter, Rob Knight

    Microbes are present at every crime scene and have been used as physical evidence for over a century. Advances in DNA sequencing and computational approaches have led to recent breakthroughs in the use of microbiome approaches for forensic science, particularly in the areas of estimating postmortem intervals (PMIs), locating clandestine graves, and obtaining soil and skin trace evidence. Low-cost, high-throughput technologies allow us to accumulate molecular data quickly and to apply sophisticated machine-learning algorithms, building generalizable predictive models that will be useful in the criminal justice system. In particular, integrating microbiome and metabolomic data has excellent potential to advance microbial forensics.

  • Discovering Protein-Coding Genes from the Environment: Time for the Eukaryotes?
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-03-07
    Roland Marmeisse, Harald Kellner, Laurence Fraissinet-Tachet, Patricia Luis

    Eukaryotic microorganisms from diverse environments encompass a large number of taxa, many of them still unknown to science. One strategy to mine these organisms for genes of biotechnological relevance is to use a pool of eukaryotic mRNA directly extracted from environmental samples. Recent reports demonstrate that the resulting metatranscriptomic cDNA libraries can be screened by expression in yeast for a wide range of genes and functions from many of the different eukaryotic taxa. In combination with novel emerging high-throughput technologies, we anticipate that this approach should contribute to exploring the functional diversity of the eukaryotic microbiota.

  • Biodegradation of Carbon Nanotubes, Graphene, and Their Derivatives
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-01-05
    Ming Chen, Xiaosheng Qin, Guangming Zeng

    Carbon nanotubes (CNTs), graphene (GRA), and their derivatives are promising materials for a wide range of applications such as pollutant removal, enzyme immobilization, bioimaging, biosensors, and drug delivery and are rapidly increasing in use and increasingly mass produced. The biodegradation of carbon nanomaterials by microbes and enzymes is now of great importance for both reducing their toxicity to living organisms and removing them from the environment. Here we review recent progress in the biodegradation field from the point of view of the primary microbes and enzymes that can degrade these nanomaterials, along with experimental and molecular simulation methods for the exploration of nanomaterial degradation. Further efforts should primarily aim toward expanding the repertoire of microbes and enzymes and exploring optimal conditions for the degradation of nanomaterials.

  • Biotechnological Advances for Restoring Degraded Land for Sustainable Development
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-06-12
    Vishal Tripathi, Sheikh Adil Edrisi, Bin Chen, Vijai K. Gupta, Raivo Vilu, Nicholas Gathergood, P.C. Abhilash

    Global land resources are under severe threat due to pollution and unsustainable land use practices. Restoring degraded land is imperative for regaining ecosystem services, such as biodiversity maintenance and nutrient and water cycling, and to meet the food, feed, fuel, and fibre requirements of present and future generations. While bioremediation is acknowledged as a promising technology for restoring polluted and degraded lands, its field potential is limited for various reasons. However, recent biotechnological advancements, including producing efficient microbial consortia, applying enzymes with higher degrees of specificity, and designing plants with specific microbial partners, are opening new prospects in remediation technology. This review provides insights into such promising ways to harness biotechnology as ecofriendly methods for remediation and restoration.

  • Biotechnologies for Marine Oil Spill Cleanup: Indissoluble Ties with Microorganisms
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-05-13
    Francesca Mapelli, Alberto Scoma, Grégoire Michoud, Federico Aulenta, Nico Boon, Sara Borin, Nicolas Kalogerakis, Daniele Daffonchio

    The ubiquitous exploitation of petroleum hydrocarbons (HCs) has been accompanied by accidental spills and chronic pollution in marine ecosystems, including the deep ocean. Physicochemical technologies are available for oil spill cleanup, but HCs must ultimately be mineralized by microorganisms. How environmental factors drive the assembly and activity of HC-degrading microbial communities remains unknown, limiting our capacity to integrate microorganism-based cleanup strategies with current physicochemical remediation technologies. In this review, we summarize recent findings about microbial physiology, metabolism and ecology and describe how microbes can be exploited to create improved biotechnological solutions to clean up marine surface and deep waters, sediments and beaches.

  • Next-Generation Insect-Resistant Plants: RNAi-Mediated Crop Protection
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-19
    Jiang Zhang, Sher Afzal Khan, David G. Heckel, Ralph Bock

    Plant-mediated RNA interference (RNAi) shows great potential in crop protection. It relies on plants stably expressing double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) that target essential genes in pest insects. Practical application of this strategy is challenging because producing sufficient amounts of stable dsRNA in plants has proven to be difficult to achieve with conventional transgenesis. In addition, many insects do not respond to exogenously applied dsRNAs, either degrading them or failing to import them into the cytoplasm. We summarize recent progress in RNAi-mediated insect pest control and discuss factors determining its efficacy. Expressing dsRNA in chloroplasts overcomes many of the difficulties previously encountered. We also highlight remaining challenges and discuss the environmental and biosafety issues involved in the use of this technology in agriculture.

  • Sphingomonads in Microbe-Assisted Phytoremediation: Tackling Soil Pollution
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-20
    Michael Gatheru Waigi, Kai Sun, Yanzheng Gao

    Soil pollution has become a major concern in various terrestrial ecosystems worldwide. One in situ soil bioremediation strategy that has gained popularity recently is microbe-assisted phytoremediation, which is promising for remediating pollutants. Sphingomonads, a versatile bacteria group comprising four well-known genera, are ubiquitous in vegetation grown in contaminated soils. These Gram-negative microbes have been investigated for their ability to induce innate plant growth-promoting (PGP) traits, including the formation of phytohormones, siderophores, and chelators, in addition to their evolutionary adaptations enabling biodegradation and microbe-assisted removal of contaminants. However, their capacity for bacterial-assisted phytoremediation has to date been undervalued. Here, we highlight the specific features, roles, advantages, and challenges associated with using sphingomonads in plant–microbe interactions, from the perspective of future phytotechnologies.

  • Frugal Biotech Applications of Low-Temperature Plasma
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-09-01
    Zdenko Machala, David B. Graves

    Gas discharge low-temperature air plasma can be utilized for a variety of applications, including biomedical, at low cost. We term these applications ‘frugal plasma’ – an example of frugal innovation. We demonstrate how simple, robust, low-cost frugal plasma devices can be used to safely disinfect instruments, surfaces, and water.

  • Mechanistic Fermentation Models for Process Design, Monitoring, and Control
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-08-30
    Lisa Mears, Stuart M. Stocks, Mads O. Albaek, Gürkan Sin, Krist V. Gernaey

    Mechanistic models require a significant investment of time and resources, but their application to multiple stages of fermentation process development and operation can make this investment highly valuable. This Opinion article discusses how an established fermentation model may be adapted for application to different stages of fermentation process development: planning, process design, monitoring, and control. Although a longer development time is required for such modeling methods in comparison to purely data-based model techniques, the wide range of applications makes them a highly valuable tool for fermentation research and development. In addition, in a research environment, where collaboration is important, developing mechanistic models provides a platform for knowledge sharing and consolidation of existing process understanding.

  • Microbial Identification Using Electrochemical Detection of Metabolites
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-08-30
    Edgar D. Goluch

    Curbing antibiotic use requires the development of simple diagnostic tests that provide caregivers with reliable, immediately actionable information to identify whether there is a need to prescribe a specific antibiotic. This Forum article highlights advances in infection screening approaches that use electrochemistry to detect molecular biomarkers for distinct pathogenic infections.

  • Flashing LEDs for Microalgal Production
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-08-30
    Peter S.C. Schulze, Rui Guerra, Hugo Pereira, Lisa M. Schüler, João C.S. Varela

    Flashing lights are next-generation tools to mitigate light attenuation and increase the photosynthetic efficiency of microalgal cultivation systems illuminated by light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Optimal flashing light conditions depend on the reaction kinetics and properties of the linear electron transfer chain, energy dissipation, and storage mechanisms of a phototroph. In particular, extremely short and intense light flashes potentially mitigate light attenuation in photobioreactors without impairing photosynthesis. Intelligently controlling flashing light units and selecting electronic components can maximize light emission and energy efficiency. We discuss the biological, physical, and technical properties of flashing lights for algal production. We combine recent findings about photosynthetic pathways, self-shading in photobioreactors, and developments in solid-state technology towards the biotechnological application of LEDs to microalgal production.

  • Tracking the Penetration of Plasma Reactive Species in Tissue Models
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-08-23
    Endre J. Szili, Sung-Ha Hong, Jun-Seok Oh, Nishtha Gaur, Robert D. Short

    Electrically generated cold atmospheric plasma is being intensively researched for novel applications in biology and medicine. Significant attention is being given to reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS), initially generated upon plasma–air interactions, and subsequently delivered to biological systems. Effects of plasma exposure are observed to millimeter depths within tissue. However, the exact nature of the initial plasma–tissue interactions remains unknown, including RONS speciation and delivery depth, or how plasma-derived RONS intervene in biological processes. Herein, we focus on current research using tissue and cell models to learn more about the plasma delivery of RONS into biological environments. We argue that this research is vital in underpinning the knowledge required to realize the full potential of plasma in biology and medicine.

  • Limitations in Clinical Translation of Nanoparticle-Based Gene Therapy
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-08-17
    Joanna K.L. Wong, Rashin Mohseni, Amir Ali Hamidieh, Robert E. MacLaren, Nagy Habib, Alexander M. Seifalian

    Organic nanoparticle-based (ONP) gene therapy is a potential strategy to cure human cancer. However, there are still many practical barriers before the promising results from in vitro and preclinical studies can be translated to clinical success. We discuss the reasons behind the hesitant uptake by the clinic.

  • Organic Nanoparticle-Based Combinatory Approaches for Gene Therapy
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-08-14
    Brahma N. Singh, Prateeksha, Vijai K. Gupta, Jieyin Chen, Atanas G. Atanasov

    Engineered organic nanoparticle (ONP)-mediated co-delivery of genes and therapeutic agents is emerging as a powerful tool in the treatment of several genetic and non-genetic disorders. The ONP-based combinatory approach provides a technological platform that delivers genes with chemo/radio/photo/immunotherapies for the prevention or treatment of disease progression.

  • Bioprinting and Cellular Therapies for Type 1 Diabetes
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-08-05
    Dino J. Ravnic, Ashley N. Leberfinger, Ibrahim T. Ozbolat

    Type 1 diabetes mellitus is a chronic autoimmune disease that results from the destruction of beta (β) cells in the pancreatic islets, leading to loss of insulin production and resultant hyperglycemia. Recent developments in stem cell biology have generated much excitement for β-cell replacement strategies; β cells are one of many cell types in the complex islet environment and pancreas. In this Opinion, we discuss recent successful attempts to generate β cells and how this can be coupled with bioprinting technologies in order to fabricate pancreas tissues, which holds great potential for type 1 diabetes. Possibilities of integrating vascularization and encapsulation in bioprinted tissues are expounded, and future prospects, such as pancreas-on-a-chip, are also presented.

  • Engineering ‘Posthumans’: To Be or Not to Be?
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-05-15
    Marianna Karamanou, Theodore G. Papaioannou, Dimitrios Soulis, Dimitrios Tousoulis

    Emerging technological innovations have transformed some science fiction ideas into reality, promising radical changes in human nature. New philosophical and intellectual movements such as ‘transhumanism’ and ‘posthumanism’ try to foretell and even direct the future of our existence while dealing with new and complex ethical, social, political issues and dilemmas.

  • Designer Probiotics: Paving the Way to Living Therapeutics
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-05-05
    Birbal Singh, Gorakh Mal, Francesco Marotta

    Enhancing the functional repertoire of probiotics is a promising approach to cope with the inexorable rise of antibiotic-resistant pathogens and the rather slow development of new antibiotics. Probiotics that deliver novel therapeutics efficiently and with site specificity are emerging living therapeutics that may transform existing paradigms of disease diagnosis and prevention.

  • Clusters in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioeconomy: The Roles of the Public Sector
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-05-06
    Jim Philp, David E. Winickoff

    Government policies across the world seek to create clusters of companies and other stakeholders that specialise in a particular technology to build an ‘industrial ecosystem’. This article looks at some examples of clusters created specifically with industrial biotechnology in mind and examines measures for policymakers.

  • How Does Membrane Oxidation Affect Cell Delivery and Cell Killing?
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-04-28
    M. Daben J. Libardo, Ting-Yi Wang, Jean-Philippe Pellois, Alfredo M. Angeles-Boza

    The biophysical properties of cellular membranes intimately influence the delivery of cargoes into cells by cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) and the bactericidal activity of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). Here, we discuss how lipid oxidation creates important chemical and biophysical changes in membranes, and hypothesize about the observed synergy between oxidized membranes and membrane-active peptides.

  • Affibody Molecules in Biotechnological and Medical Applications
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-05-14
    Stefan Ståhl, Torbjörn Gräslund, Amelie Eriksson Karlström, Fredrik Y. Frejd, Per-Åke Nygren, John Löfblom

    Affibody molecules are small (6.5-kDa) affinity proteins based on a three-helix bundle domain framework. Since their introduction 20 years ago as an alternative to antibodies for biotechnological applications, the first therapeutic affibody molecules have now entered clinical development and more than 400 studies have been published in which affibody molecules have been developed and used in a variety of contexts. In this review, we focus primarily on efforts over the past 5 years to explore the potential of affibody molecules for medical applications in oncology, neurodegenerative, and inflammation disorders, including molecular imaging, receptor signal blocking, and delivery of toxic payloads. In addition, we describe recent examples of biotechnological applications, in which affibody molecules have been exploited as modular affinity fusion partners.

  • Microfluidics as a Strategic Player to Decipher Single-Cell Omics?
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-06-17
    Ouriel Caen, Heng Lu, Philippe Nizard, Valerie Taly

    Most cell studies are performed at a population level, relying on the assumption of a normal distribution of the function and fate of a cell among a population. However, technologies allowing single-cell analysis (SCA) have recently arisen and have led to increasing evidence of cell population heterogeneity and its importance. Tremendous amounts of new data could now be uncovered to redefine our understanding of cell omics. Microfluidics has emerged as a major technological player in this new era and is gradually increasing in use among biology laboratories, mainly due to the single-cell high-throughput handling solutions it offers. In this review, we assess its use and relevance for omics analysis at the single-cell level, with a specific focus on compartment-based microfluidic approaches.

  • Multiplexed Point-of-Care Testing – xPOCT
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-04-26
    Can Dincer, Richard Bruch, André Kling, Petra S. Dittrich, Gerald A. Urban

    Multiplexed point-of-care testing (xPOCT), which is simultaneous on-site detection of different analytes from a single specimen, has recently gained increasing importance for clinical diagnostics, with emerging applications in resource-limited settings (such as in the developing world, in doctors’ offices, or directly at home). Nevertheless, only single-analyte approaches are typically considered as the major paradigm in many reviews of point-of-care testing. Here, we comprehensively review the present diagnostic systems and techniques for xPOCT applications. Different multiplexing technologies (e.g., bead- or array-based systems) are considered along with their detection methods (e.g., electrochemical or optical). We also address the unmet needs and challenges of xPOCT. Finally, we critically summarize the in-field applicability and the future perspectives of the presented approaches.

  • How Not To Drown in Data: A Guide for Biomaterial Engineers
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-07
    Aliaksei S. Vasilevich, Aurélie Carlier, Jan de Boer, Shantanu Singh

    High-throughput assays that produce hundreds of measurements per sample are powerful tools for quantifying cell–material interactions. With advances in automation and miniaturization in material fabrication, hundreds of biomaterial samples can be rapidly produced, which can then be characterized using these assays. However, the resulting deluge of data can be overwhelming. To the rescue are computational methods that are well suited to these problems. Machine learning techniques provide a vast array of tools to make predictions about cell–material interactions and to find patterns in cellular responses. Computational simulations allow researchers to pose and test hypotheses and perform experiments in silico. This review describes approaches from these two domains that can be brought to bear on the problem of analyzing biomaterial screening data.

  • The Efficient Clade: Lactic Acid Bacteria for Industrial Chemical Production
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-05-23
    Michael Sauer, Hannes Russmayer, Reingard Grabherr, Clemens K. Peterbauer, Hans Marx

    Lactic acid bacteria are well known to be beneficial for food production and, as probiotics, they are relevant for many aspects of health. However, their potential as cell factories for the chemical industry is only emerging. Many physiological traits of these microorganisms, evolved for optimal growth in their niche, are also valuable in an industrial context. Here, we illuminate these features and describe why the distinctive adaptation of lactic acid bacteria is particularly useful when developing a microbial process for chemical production from renewable resources. High carbon uptake rates with low biomass formation combined with strictly regulated simple metabolic pathways, leading to a limited number of metabolites, are among the key factors defining their success in both nature and industry.

  • Nanoparticle-Based Dressing: The Future of Wound Treatment?
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-06-20
    Morgane Berthet, Yves Gauthier, Céline Lacroix, Bernard Verrier, Claire Monge

    Reconstructing functional skin after a wound remains a challenge due to the complexity of healing. In this regard, biocompatible nanoparticles (NPs) carrying and releasing bioactive drugs in a controlled and sustained manner may significantly improve the efficacy of wound therapies compared with current treatments. Topical administration of drug-loaded NPs allows optimal delivery to the dermis and improves product efficacy. Furthermore, associating NPs with scaffolds represents a new concept of ‘dressing’. Experimental in vivo, ex vivo, and in vitro models have been developed in preclinical assays to evaluate the beneficial effects of nanoparticulate dressings. Drug-loaded NPs are promising tools for innovative wound healing treatment, especially with regard to their multifunctional properties.

  • Recent Advances in Microbial Production of Aromatic Chemicals and Derivatives
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-06-20
    Shuhei Noda, Akihiko Kondo

    Along with the development of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology tools, various microbes are being used to produce aromatic chemicals. In microbes, aromatics are mainly produced via a common important precursor, chorismate, in the shikimate pathway. Natural or non-natural aromatics have been produced by engineering metabolic pathways involving chorismate. In the past decade, novel approaches have appeared to produce various aromatics or to increase their productivity, whereas previously, the targets were mainly aromatic amino acids and the strategy was deregulating feedback inhibition. In this review, we summarize recent studies of microbial production of aromatics based on metabolic engineering approaches. In addition, future perspectives and challenges in this research area are discussed.

  • Advances in Industrial Biotechnology Using CRISPR-Cas Systems
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-08-01
    Paul D. Donohoue, Rodolphe Barrangou, Andrew P. May

    The term ‘clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats’ (CRISPR) has recently become synonymous with the genome-editing revolution. The RNA-guided endonuclease CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9), in particular, has attracted attention for its promise in basic research and gene editing-based therapeutics. CRISPR-Cas systems are efficient and easily programmable nucleic acid-targeting tools, with uses reaching beyond research and therapeutic development into the precision breeding of plants and animals and the engineering of industrial microbes. CRISPR-Cas systems have potential for many microbial engineering applications, including bacterial strain typing, immunization of cultures, autoimmunity or self-targeted cell killing, and the engineering or control of metabolic pathways for improved biochemical synthesis. In this review, we explore the fundamental characteristics of CRISPR-Cas systems and highlight how these features can be used in industrial settings.

  • The Business of Anti-Aging Science
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-08-01
    João Pedro de Magalhães, Michael Stevens, Daniel Thornton

    Age-related conditions are the leading causes of death and health-care costs. Reducing the rate of aging would have enormous medical and financial benefits. Myriad genes and pathways are known to regulate aging in model organisms, fostering a new crop of anti-aging companies. Approaches range from drug discovery efforts to big-data methods and direct-to-consumer (DTC) strategies. Challenges and pitfalls of commercialization include reliance on findings from short-lived model organisms, poor biological understanding of aging, and hurdles in performing clinical trials for aging. A large number of potential aging-associated interventions and targets exist, but given the long validation times only a small fraction can be explored for clinical applications. If even one company succeeds, however, the impact will be huge.

  • Engaging the Senses, Understanding Publics: Research Methods, Science Engagement, and Synthetic Biology
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-28
    Robert Meckin, Andrew Balmer

    Scientists and government actors often fear a ‘public rejection’ of biotechnology, especially regarding genetic modification. Through a research project aimed at engaging people’s senses, we support an alternative way for scientists to consider non-scientists in their research.

  • Microfluidic-Mass Spectrometry Interfaces for Translational Proteomics
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-26
    R. Daniel Pedde, Huiyan Li, Christoph H. Borchers, Mohsen Akbari

    Interfacing mass spectrometry (MS) with microfluidic chips (μchip-MS) holds considerable potential to transform a clinician’s toolbox, providing translatable methods for the early detection, diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment of noncommunicable diseases by streamlining and integrating laborious sample preparation workflows on high-throughput, user-friendly platforms. Overcoming the limitations of competitive immunoassays − currently the gold standard in clinical proteomics − μchip-MS can provide unprecedented access to complex proteomic assays having high sensitivity and specificity, but without the labor, costs, and complexities associated with conventional MS sample processing. This review surveys recent μchip-MS systems for clinical applications and examines their emerging role in streamlining the development and translation of MS-based proteomic assays by alleviating many of the challenges that currently inhibit widespread clinical adoption.

  • G-Quadruplexes: Prediction, Characterization, and Biological Application
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-26
    Chun Kit Kwok, Catherine J. Merrick

    Guanine (G)-rich sequences in nucleic acids can assemble into G-quadruplex structures that involve G-quartets linked by loop nucleotides. The structural and topological diversity of G-quadruplexes have attracted great attention for decades. Recent methodological advances have advanced the identification and characterization of G-quadruplexes in vivo as well as in vitro, and at a much higher resolution and throughput, which has greatly expanded our current understanding of G-quadruplex structure and function. Accumulating knowledge about the structural properties of G-quadruplexes has helped to design and develop a repertoire of molecular and chemical tools for biological applications. This review highlights how these exciting methods and findings have opened new doors to investigate the potential functions and applications of G-quadruplexes in basic and applied biosciences.

  • Plasmas for Treating Cancer: Opportunities for Adaptive and Self-Adaptive Approaches
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-26
    Michael Keidar, Dayun Yan, Isak I. Beilis, Barry Trink, Jonathan H. Sherman

    Plasma is an ionized gas that is typically formed under high-temperature laboratory conditions. Recent progress in atmospheric plasmas has led to cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) devices with ion temperatures close to room temperature. The unique chemical and physical properties of CAP have led to its use in various biomedical applications including cancer therapy. CAP exhibits a spontaneous transition from a spatially homogeneous state to a modifiable pattern that is subject to self-organization. In this Opinion article, we discuss some new applications for plasma in cancer therapy based on plasma self-organization, which enables adaptive features in plasma-based therapeutic systems.

  • Stem Cell Therapies for Reversing Vision Loss
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-24
    Akon Higuchi, S. Suresh Kumar, Giovanni Benelli, Abdullah A. Alarfaj, Murugan A. Munusamy, Akihiko Umezawa, Kadarkarai Murugan

    Current clinical trials that evaluate human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-based therapies predominantly target treating macular degeneration of the eyes because the eye is an isolated tissue that is naturally weakly immunogenic. Here, we discuss current bioengineering approaches and biomaterial usage in combination with stem cell therapy for macular degeneration disease treatment. Retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) differentiated from hPSCs is typically used in most clinical trials for treating patients, whereas bone marrow mononuclear cells (BMNCs) or mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are intravitreally transplanted, undifferentiated, into patient eyes. We also discuss reported negative effects of stem cell therapy, such as patients becoming blind following transplantation of adipose-derived stem cells, which are increasingly used by ‘stem-cell clinics’.

  • Structure and Computation in Immunoreagent Design: From Diagnostics to Vaccines
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-21
    Louise Gourlay, Claudio Peri, Martino Bolognesi, Giorgio Colombo

    Novel immunological tools for efficient diagnosis and treatment of emerging infections are urgently required. Advances in the diagnostic and vaccine development fields are continuously progressing, with reverse vaccinology and structural vaccinology (SV) methods for antigen identification and structure-based antigen (re)design playing increasingly relevant roles. SV, in particular, is predicted to be the front-runner in the future development of diagnostics and vaccines targeting challenging diseases such as AIDS and cancer. We review state-of-the-art methodologies for structure-based epitope identification and antigen design, with specific applicative examples. We highlight the implications of such methods for the engineering of biomolecules with improved immunological properties, potential diagnostic and/or therapeutic uses, and discuss the perspectives of structure-based rational design for the production of advanced immunoreagents.

  • Beyond Native Cas9: Manipulating Genomic Information and Function
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-21
    Hitoshi Mitsunobu, Jun Teramoto, Keiji Nishida, Akihiko Kondo

    Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-mediated manipulation of genomic information is becoming more versatile by combining nuclease-deficient CRISPR systems with a wide variety of effectors including base-editing deaminases, transcriptional regulators, and epigenetic modifiers. The programmable binding ability of CRISPR systems is essential when the systems are employed as targeting domains to recruit the effectors to specific genomic loci. The discovery of a variety of Cas9 orthologs and engineered variants enables high-fidelity genome editing and a wider selection of genomic targets, and CRISPR-mediated deaminases enable more precise and predictable genome editing compared with CRISPR nuclease-based editing. Finally, combining transcriptional regulators with CRISPR systems can control expression of specific genes in a genome. Some applications and future challenges of CRISPR-derived tools are also discussed.

  • Engineered Hydrogels in Cancer Therapy and Diagnosis
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-19
    Mohammadmajid Sepantafar, Reihan Maheronnaghsh, Hossein Mohammadi, Fatemeh Radmanesh, Mohammad Mahdi Hasani-sadrabadi, Marzieh Ebrahimi, Hossein Baharvand

    Over the last decade, numerous investigations have attempted to clarify the intricacies of tumor development to propose effective approaches for cancer treatment. Thanks to the unique properties of hydrogels, researchers have made significant progress in tumor model reconstruction, tumor diagnosis, and associated therapies. Notably, hydrogel-based systems can be adjusted to respond to cancer-specific hallmarks and/or external stimuli. These well-known drug reservoirs can be used as smart carriers for multiple cargos, including both naked and nanoparticle-encapsulated chemotherapeutics, genes, and radioisotopes. Recent works have attempted to specialize hydrogels for cancer research; we comprehensively review this topic for the first time, synthesizing past results and defining paths for future work.

  • Respiratory Protection against Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-18
    Ilaria Rubino, Hyo-Jick Choi

    Respiratory protection against airborne pathogens is crucial for pandemic/epidemic preparedness in the context of personal protection, healthcare systems, and governance. We expect that the development of technologies that overcome the existing challenges in current respiratory protective devices will lead to a timely and effective response to the next outbreak.

  • Addressing the Digital Divide in Contemporary Biology: Lessons from Teaching UNIX
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-15
    Serghei Mangul, Lana S. Martin, Alexander Hoffmann, Matteo Pellegrini, Eleazar Eskin

    Life and medical science researchers increasingly rely on applications that lack a graphical interface. Scientists who are not trained in computer science face an enormous challenge analyzing high-throughput data. We present a training model for use of command-line tools when the learner has little to no prior knowledge of UNIX.

  • Modeling of Plasmas for Biomedicine
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-15
    Natalia Yu. Babaeva, George V. Naidis

    Studies in plasma medicine, which are currently actively expanding, are of multidisciplinary character, involving physical, chemical and biological processes. Rapid progress has been achieved in this field due to synergy between experimental and theoretical/computational methods. Joint use of diagnostic tools and computations gives a better understanding of mechanisms of interaction of plasma with bio-objects. This review focuses on recent achievements in modeling of plasma for biomedical applications. Various computational approaches used in these studies are described. We discuss some results of simulations that concern the production of reactive species by plasma and their delivery to bio-objects, and we consider the effect of electroporation at direct contact of cold plasma with cells.

  • Manufacturing Cell Therapies Using Engineered Biomaterials
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-12
    Amr A. Abdeen, Krishanu Saha

    Emerging manufacturing processes to generate regenerative advanced therapies can involve extensive genomic and/or epigenomic manipulation of autologous or allogeneic cells. These cell engineering processes need to be carefully controlled and standardized to maximize safety and efficacy in clinical trials. Engineered biomaterials with smart and tunable properties offer an intriguing tool to provide or deliver cues to retain stemness, direct differentiation, promote reprogramming, manipulate the genome, or select functional phenotypes. This review discusses the use of engineered biomaterials to control human cell manufacturing. Future work exploiting engineered biomaterials has the potential to generate manufacturing processes that produce standardized cells with well-defined critical quality attributes appropriate for clinical testing.

  • Plasma in Dentistry: Brief History and Current Status
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-07-07
    Matteo Gherardi, Riccardo Tonini, Vittorio Colombo

    We briefly discuss the history of cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) applications in dentistry. The reasons for seeking innovative solutions in dentistry are reported, highlighting results showing the potential of plasma along with some still-open questions. Finally, we suggest the next steps on the road from the laboratory to the dental chair.

  • Hot Start to European Pluripotent Stem Cell Banking
    Trends Biotechnol. (IF 11.126) Pub Date : 2017-05-13
    Paul A. De Sousa, Rachel Steeg, Beate Kreisel, Timothy E. Allsopp

    Achieving consistency in standards of access to and quality of human induced pluripotent stem cells has lagged behind their use. In Europe, a network of academic and industrial partners has been established to overcome this challenge. The experience reveals the devil in the detail of worthy ambitions informing future efforts.

Some contents have been Reproduced with permission of the American Chemical Society.
Some contents have been Reproduced by permission of The Royal Society of Chemistry.