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Surviving the dry state: engineering a desiccation-tolerant mammalian cell

Objective

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.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/cell biology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/biochemistry/biomolecules/nucleic acid
  • /medical and health sciences/basic medicine/physiology/homeostasis
  • /medical and health sciences/medical biotechnology/tissue engineering
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/synthetic biology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/genetics and heredity
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries/agriculture
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/biochemistry/biomolecules/proteins
  • /medical and health sciences/basic medicine/immunology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/biochemistry
  • /agricultural sciences/agriculture, forestry, and fisheries/agriculture/plant breeding/crops
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/molecular biology/molecular genetics

Call for proposal

ERC-2008-AdG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-AG - ERC Advanced Grant

Host institution

THE CHANCELLOR MASTERS AND SCHOLARSOF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
Address
Trinity Lane The Old Schools
CB2 1TN Cambridge
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 2 494 963
Principal investigator
Alan Tunnacliffe (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Renata Schaeffer (Ms.)

Beneficiaries (1)

THE CHANCELLOR MASTERS AND SCHOLARSOF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE
United Kingdom
EU contribution
€ 2 494 963
Address
Trinity Lane The Old Schools
CB2 1TN Cambridge
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Alan Tunnacliffe (Dr.)
Administrative Contact
Renata Schaeffer (Ms.)