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Biotechnol J. 2015 Jul;10(7):1005-18. doi: 10.1002/biot.201400642. Epub 2015 May 26.

Mammalian designer cells: Engineering principles and biomedical applications.

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Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, ETH Zurich, Basel, Switzerland.
Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, ETH Zurich, Basel, Switzerland.
Faculty of Life Science, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland.


Biotechnology is a widely interdisciplinary field focusing on the use of living cells or organisms to solve established problems in medicine, food production and agriculture. Synthetic biology, the science of engineering complex biological systems that do not exist in nature, continues to provide the biotechnology industry with tools, technologies and intellectual property leading to improved cellular performance. One key aspect of synthetic biology is the engineering of deliberately reprogrammed designer cells whose behavior can be controlled over time and space. This review discusses the most commonly used techniques to engineer mammalian designer cells; while control elements acting on the transcriptional and translational levels of target gene expression determine the kinetic and dynamic profiles, coupling them to a variety of extracellular stimuli permits their remote control with user-defined trigger signals. Designer mammalian cells with novel or improved biological functions not only directly improve the production efficiency during biopharmaceutical manufacturing but also open the door for cell-based treatment strategies in molecular and translational medicine. In the future, the rational combination of multiple sets of designer cells could permit the construction and regulation of higher-order systems with increased complexity, thereby enabling the molecular reprogramming of tissues, organisms or even populations with highest precision.


Biocomputer; Cell therapy; Gene regulation; Mammalian production; Trigger-inducible designer cell

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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