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Cell-Free Protein Synthesis: A New Era of Space Biotechnology

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Salman Akhtar
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Cell-Free Protein Synthesis: A New Era of Space Biotechnology

In a landmark initiative, the International Space Station (ISS) has successfully utilized a cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) system, known as BioBits®, for the production of proteins in space. This breakthrough technology enables the transcription and translation of nucleic acids, circumventing the necessity for living cells. The implications of this technology are far-reaching, with immediate applications in the production of peptide-based vaccines, biotherapeutics, and diagnostic tests.

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BioBits® in Space: A New Frontier in Protein Synthesis

Recently, BioBits®, a cell-free BioBits platform, was put to the test in the microgravity environment of the ISS. The study involved expressing RNA-based aptamers and fluorescent proteins using BioBits, in an attempt to create biological sensors that respond to the molecule DFHBI or specific RNA sequences. The findings confirmed that these biosensors operated efficiently in the challenging conditions of space, providing reliable fluorescent readouts. The success was visualized using a handheld fluorescence viewer, and the results were recorded quantitatively.

The Robustness and Utility of CFPS

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The potential applications of CFPS, particularly in low-resource or extreme environments like space, are expansive. They encompass real-time health monitoring and the detection of environmental hazards. The BioBits platform itself comprises a lyophilized cellular extract stored in portable tubes, which can be reactivated with the necessary plasmids when required. The use of the Genes in Space Fluorescence Viewer enables quick and direct monitoring of the cell-free reactions. These findings not only emphasize the robustness of cell-free biosensors in space but also highlight the broad utility of CFPS in varied settings.

Implications for Future Space Missions

The successful use of the CFPS system aboard the ISS may have far-reaching implications for future space missions. The ability to produce proteins in a microgravity environment opens up new possibilities for conducting biological research in space. Coupled with the potential of real-time health monitoring and the detection of environmental hazards, the innovative BioBits® platform is set to revolutionize space exploration.

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