Realising the potential of synthetic biology for health

Insights for Medicine

Life sciences research at the University of Edinburgh is world class and our Centre has created a great new opportunity to bring synthetic biology to two areas of excellence – epigenetics and regenerative medicine. With this powerful combination, we can implement synthetic and systems biology approaches to accelerate biomedical research and development for improving health.

Understanding Epigenetics

Epigenetic silencing is essential for modulating the expression of genes and for genome integrity; several diseases have been linked to errors in this system. We have a unique opportunity to combine synthetic biology and epigenetics to develop tools and methodologies to further our understanding of the role of epigenetics in disease, and to use synthetic epigenetic regulators to engineer cell fate and function. Ultimately we could design new epi-drugs to treat a variety of chronic diseases.


Understanding Degenerative Disease

Oligodendrocytes are thought to divide 7-8 times before they become the mature cells that lay down the myelin sheath around delicate nerves. However, this has never been proven experimentally. Now we can generate genetic devices to ‘count’ how many times a cell divides and so better understand how and why the process fails, and whether this contributes to demyelinating diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis.