The King of Cloning Is Fading
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Microscopic image of E. ColiDave, do you know which is the most intensely studied lifeform on the planet? Us? Nope. It’s smaller than us, in each of us, and for over a century has been a powerhouse for biological discovery! It has to be a bacterium! Yep... and I’ll bet everyone’s heard of it: E. coli, which is short for Escherichia coli, has an impressive resume.

The cloning of genes was first accomplished in E. coli. Human insulin was produced by engineering E. coli and was followed by others that became therapeutics and vaccines. E. coli was among the first bacteria to have their genomes completely sequenced. This microbe is so well understood that it became a sort of safe “work bench” for genetic manipulation.

These lab strains of E. coli can’t survive outside the lab or in the intestinal tract. Since the 1950s scientists have used it to understand and modify genes and advance genetic engineering. One reason is it’s fast and easy to grow, dividing every twenty minutes.

But now Harvard scientists are focused on a micro be that can divide even faster at every seven minutes. Vibrio natriegens is among the most rapidly growing bacteria making it attractive for commercial uses. Even though it’s related to a human pathogen, it lacks the disease causing attributes. The genome of this microbe has been completely sequenced. At 45-hundred genes, it’s about the same size as E. coli.

So does this mean king coli is dead? Not yet. Genetic manipulations in E. coli are likely to continue for years, but its competitor is waiting in the wings.

For more information…

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