What wonderful impacts has seemingly out-of-reach biotechnology had on our lives?

What wonderful impacts has seemingly out-of-reach biotechnology had on our lives?

Every night, I would take out my vitamin C vial by the bedside as usual, pour out two or three pills and take them as my main source of vitamin C intake for the day.

Yes, it’s just a bottle. It’s not even an expensive health product. If you use a medical insurance card, a bottle only costs a few yuan. It seems to have no technical content.

But don’t underestimate this little vitamin C pill. In Columbus’s day, sailors often got scurvy due to insufficient vitamin C intake, and the mortality rate was extremely high. Its “life-saving” effect is self-evident.

Around 1930, researchers who studied vitamin C also won the Nobel Prize. Although the structure of vitamin C was clear at that time, there were still big problems in synthesis and industrial production, especially under China’s backward industrial conditions. .

Things took a turn for the better around 1970.

Chinese scientists first thought of fermenting microorganisms to obtain vitamin C. The two-step process developed made our country the largest producer of vitamin C in the world, accounting for more than 85% of international production. It suddenly got rid of the need for vitamin C. As for the import situation, it can also be exported to many other countries.
The two-step fermentation process for synthesizing vitamin C. The microbial fermentation here is closely related to our topic today – synthetic biology.

Don’t look down upon this as just a small pill, and don’t look down on a molecular formula as simple as vitamin C. It is indeed very difficult to control these microorganisms to work for humans, and it must be efficient enough and low cost. .

Nowadays, the application scope of synthetic biology is even wider. Our daily necessities of life, food, clothing, housing and transportation may be produced through synthetic biology technology, such as artificial meat.
, vaccines, clean energy, etc., and even the use of synthetic biology technology can store images of Dunhuang murals into DNA, which can extend the preservation time to tens of thousands of years, so some people call it the “third biotechnology revolution.”

It’s no wonder that synthetic biology technology has been mentioned many times in the country’s “14th Five-Year Plan for Bioeconomic Development”.

So, what is synthetic biology, and why is it important for each of our futures?

To put it simply, the biggest breakthrough in synthetic biology at present is that it can manipulate cells (currently mainly microorganisms), read, copy, and change cellular genetic information, so that they can serve humans and synthesize some of the biological activities we need. material processes. It saves energy and is more sustainable than traditional animal and plant extraction and chemical synthesis.

This process is to use microorganisms as a small factory, and then decorate and transform it inside. It can be turned into a glucose factory or an amino acid factory. In short, we can transform it into whatever we want. Microorganisms have super-fast reproduction capabilities, and we can obtain the “treasures” we need from them almost unlimitedly!

It sounds simple, but it is still very difficult to actually implement these processes.

As someone who has studied biology for many years, it is no longer easy to make microorganisms stably produce a certain component in the laboratory, let alone scale it up to a scale of several tons or dozens of tons, especially if we have to follow the route we have set. Go for a walk.

For vitamin C back then, the degree of manipulation of microorganisms was still relatively low. They only used the characteristics of the bacteria themselves to control the fermentation conditions to produce vitamin C precursors.

Today’s synthetic biology is innovatively modifying microbial cells by rewriting genetic information.
To reprogram them and let them produce some brand new substances, the synthesis path of these substances from front to back must be clearly understood.

It is not just the manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries that can benefit from synthetic biology. Many active substances in our cosmetics industry can now be made through synthetic biology, with higher purity, better efficacy, and more affordable prices.

Bloomage Biotech, which has been developing synthetic biology since 2018, is ahead of many domestic companies in this regard.

We used to only know that their hyaluronic acid is very powerful, but in fact Huaxi Biotechnology is a biotechnology company driven by synthetic biotechnology.
And biomaterials companies, if they don’t have a bit of high technology and can only work hard, they will definitely not be able to defeat so many competitors around the world.

The biggest competitive capability here is synthetic biology.

For example, in the early days, hyaluronic acid could only be extracted from animal tissues (such as cockscombs) because the raw materials were difficult to obtain, the extraction rate was very low, and the price was expensive.

Later, a method of producing hyaluronic acid through microbial fermentation was discovered. Hyaluronic acid was obtained by cultivating specific microorganisms. The yield was greatly improved, which also enabled large-scale production of hyaluronic acid.

Bloomage Biotech spent a huge amount of manpower and material resources in this area. After years of continuous research, it has achieved an industrialization level that far exceeds that of its peers. It also uses enzyme cutting technology to freely control the molecular weight of hyaluronic acid. What we are talking about now Small molecule hyaluronic acid, ultra-small molecule hyaluronic acid, etc. basically all come from Bloomage Biotech.

In addition, the familiar ectoine, ergothioneine, etc. are also produced through Huaxi Biotech’s microbial fermentation platform and are widely used in many cosmetics.
Molecular structure of repeating HA disaccharide unit composed of N-acetylglucosamine and glucuronic acid

However, the yield of hyaluronic acid obtained through traditional microbial directed fermentation still has limits.

Therefore, after the rise of synthetic biology technology, scientists can more efficiently edit, rewrite, and insert new fragments into the genes of microorganisms. After these new genes are added, it is like giving the microorganisms a shot of chicken blood, and the speed of synthesis continues. accelerate.

Bloomage Biotech has also used synthetic biology methods to transform these microorganisms.

Originally, through microbial fermentation (second-generation microbial fermentation technology), 16-17g of hyaluronic acid can be extracted per liter of fermentation broth. Through synthetic biotechnology (third-generation microbial fermentation technology), 73g of hyaluronic acid can be extracted per liter of fermentation broth. Production costs can be reduced by 3/4, which is more energy-saving and environmentally friendly.

If we continue to modify, we can even control the molecular weight of the synthesized hyaluronic acid, and can obtain hyaluronic acid of different molecular weights in a directional manner, directly eliminating the need for subsequent enzyme digestion.
Metabolic pathways of HA synthesis in microorganisms

Of course, Bloomage Biotechnology definitely does not only produce hyaluronic acid through synthetic biotechnology. Currently, Bloomage Biotechnology has used synthetic biotechnology to produce collagen, 5-ALA, NMN, human milk oligosaccharides, and chondroitin sulfate.

, heparin and other common drugs and cosmetics raw materials. In the future, these raw materials will gradually be used in more products, changing everyone’s lives.

Last year, Bloomage also established the Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Synthetic Biology for Bioactive Substances and the Beijing International Innovation Industry Base for Synthetic Biology.

, has also received support from key projects in many countries, and is definitely second to none among domestic companies.

Judging from the 2022 semi-annual report of Bloomage Biotech, many ongoing projects have a shadow of synthetic biology.

In order to popularize the scientific knowledge of synthetic biology, Bloomage Biotech also built the world’s first synthetic biology science museum in Beijing. The 1,000-square-meter venue displays the development, prospects and future of synthetic biology in various ways. Students from Beijing can really go visit it.

In short, the rise of synthetic biology should benefit each of us ordinary people. The use of bioactive raw materials synthesized by microorganisms and cells will eventually empower the food, medicines, health care products, cosmetics, etc. in our lives, allowing us to Life is healthier and more convenient.

At the same time, to deal with future energy shortages, carbon emissions, serious pollution and other issues, synthetic biology is also an important technical support for green manufacturing and achieving the dual-carbon goal.

Just like the vitamin C medicine I take every day and the skin care products I use every day, I didn’t expect that it also contains high technology. Although we sometimes ignore it, this also shows the rapid development and strong industrialization capabilities of these technologies. It came to us silently, which must be a good thing~!

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