Researchers devise technology to protect credibility of engineered cells

Advances in genome editing and synthetic biology have led to a developing industry to create customized cell lines for medical research. However, these engineered cell lines can be susceptible to misidentification, illegal replication, and cross-contamination.

A team of researchers at University of Texas have developed the first ever approach to create to uniquely match each copy of a cell line to allow users to verify its credibility and safeguard the manufacturer’s intellectual property.

The method is demonstrated in a study published online edition Science Advances

The patent-pending technology is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty members at University of Texas.

For clinical purposes, custom cell lines are used in the development of vaccines and targeted therapies for a range of diseases.

Research undertaken by researchers at University of Texas to develop unique finder for genetically engineered cells was influenced from physically unclonable function in the electronic industry.

In fact, a physically unclonable function is a physical trait that can serve as a unique fingerprint (PUF) for semiconductor a device such as a microprocessor. For semiconductors, PUFs are based on natural variations that happen during the manufacturing process and must satisfy three requirements. This requires PUF to have a unique fingerprint, generate the same fingerprint each time they are measured and be virtually impossible to replicate.

Meanwhile, to apply this concept to engineered cells, researchers devised a two-step process for sway of the cell’s ability to fix damaged DNA, which is composed of series of small molecules called nucleotides. To begin, researchers embedded a five-nucleotide bar-code repository into a part of the genome of the cell called a safe harbour, where the modification will not damage the cell.