Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Genetic Clocks

PostedJanuary 1, 2012

Anchor Lede: We simultaneously celebrate as the clock strikes midnight on New Years. Now bacteria are being engineered to do something similar.

Randy Atkins: Engineers are building genetic clocks in bacteria, inspired by cell machinery that creates our circadian rhythm.

Jeff Hasty: We rely on the same kind of design principles that nature has adopted via evolution.

Randy Atkins: Jeff Hasty, a University of California bioengineer, is using bacteria with fluorescent proteins and setting genetic timers that trigger them to glow on and off at certain intervals. Then, through fast-moving gases…

Jeff Hasty: …each cell communicates the phase of its clock to other cells, which cause the cells to beat synchronously.

Randy Atkins: Hasty says enough cells could create a visible sensor that could…

Jeff Hasty: …change the period of the clock in response to some pathogen that’s in the environment.

Randy Atkins: The concept might also lead to fine-tuning of medical applications like gene therapy. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.