Synthetic Biology Considerable synthetic biology efforts are focused on engineering yeast to produce valuable metabolites. Production in the cytosol can be challenging because of toxicity or crosstalk with cellular pathways. Dusséaux et al. harnessed the yeast peroxisome to produce geranyl diphosphate (GPP), a precursor to monoterpenoids, monoterpene indole alkoids, and cannabinoids. Targeting the entire pathway for GPP synthesis, along with an enzyme that converts GPP to the monoterpene limonene, to the peroxisome gives a 125-fold improvement in yield of limonene compared with production in the cytoplasm. Additional monoterpenes can be synthesized with the same platform using the appropriate monoterpene synthase. Peroxisomal production also facilitates downstream processing involving oxidation by cytochrome P450 enzymes. Peroxisome microfactories could be used for the modular assembly and optimization of other complex pathways. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 117 , 31789 (2020).
The beauty of evolution is that it's so nonjudgmental. What began as the first organism billions of years ago has diversified into species that fly and hop and run, whatever best suits them in their environment. As Charles Darwin put it, "from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." Look at the explosive field of robotics and you'll actually find the same thing going on. The classic humanoid of sci-fi has diversified into bots that crawl on six legs, or walk on two (however cautiously), or even bound around on a single limb.
A few years ago, SRI International introduced their MicroFactory platform, which uses hundreds of tiny robots (each one smaller than a dime) that cooperate to build macro-scale structures, like trusses, which can even contain integrated electronics. Such complex manufacturing requires cooperation between many different micro robots, each one outfitted to perform a specific task. Building a bunch of little custom bots is, we have to assume, a little bit tedious, so SRI has developed a tool shop for their MicroFactory that can make custom end-effectors for micro robots on-demand. SRI's micro robots are really just small magnets: all of the intelligence is built into the substrate that they travel on. Printed circuit boards drive them along electromagnetically, with the ability to control their speed and movement in two axes as well as rotationally.
AS LEARNED commissions debate whether to declare a new human-dominated era of geological time – the Anthropocene – we are already making facts on and under the ground. Since plastics were widely introduced in the 1950s, we have dumped an estimated 4.9 billion tonnes into the environment. Most goes to landfill for future generations to unearth. But it is marine waste that has spurred public desire for action. Images from the BBC documentary Blue Planet II of marine wildlife snared by plastics are a visceral indictment of our throwaway culture.