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Surviving the dry state: engineering a desiccation-tolerant mammalian cell (DRYLIFE)
Start date: Jan 1, 2009, End date: Sep 30, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"Certain plants, animals and micro-organisms are able to dry out completely and yet remain viable, a phenomenon known as anhydrobiosis ( life without water ), or desiccation tolerance. This proposal addresses the molecular mechanisms responsible for desiccation tolerance and aims to confer these mechanisms on desiccation-sensitive mammalian cells, establishing a new field in biotechnology: a form of synthetic biology we have called anhydrobiotic engineering. One feature of anhydrobiotic organisms is the production of many examples of highly hydrophilic proteins (or hydrophilins ) in preparation for severe dehydration. Although data are limited, these hydrophilins are suggested to fulfil various roles in preserving homeostasis of the desiccating cell, including the maintenance of protein, nucleic acid and membrane structure. The proposed project will investigate the function of hydrophilins, engineer these and other elements as desiccation protection modules, and introduce modules into mammalian cell lines. By combining protection modules and using an iterative deployment strategy, we aim to achieve an engineered mammalian cell with high viability in the dried state. Anhydrobiotic engineering will find applications in cell banking, e.g. of hybridoma collections, and cell-based technologies including tissue engineering. Principles established should be applicable to agriculture, where drought-resistant crops, or desiccation-tolerant biopesticides are envisaged. The PI has a distinguished record of achievement in several disciplines in the life sciences and biotechnology, in both academia and industry. Publications in Nature, Science and other leading journals include contributions in human genomics, the molecular genetics of the immune system and inherited disease, the molecular cell biology and biochemistry of desiccation tolerance, and invertebrate genetics. The PI is also an inventor on licensed patents and patent applications in two different fields."

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