Your Science Zine

Biobytes 2.0 streamlines plasmid construction

A group of students from the University of Alberta have developed an innovative way of putting together BioBricks.  Before if you wanted to add Biobricks together it would require a series of cuts and ligations which could end up taking days to complete.  People often likes to compare Biobricks to legos but the metaphor didnt seem to fit with such long construction times.   With Team Albertas new protocol and toolkit ,which they are calling Genomikon, decreasing construction time to minutes comparing bibricks to legos makes a whole lot more sense. And if that wasn’t a good enough, Genomikon also eliminates the need to keep a sterile environment or use expensive equipment. Making it not only perfect for high school bio labs but citizen scientists as well. Especially with an estimated sale price at $179.

All pictures and Excerpts courtesy of Team Alberta

Traditional Methods

The current assembly standard is the BioBrick method. While the Registry of Parts and the assembly standard have allowed for effective construction of plasmids in a laboratory setting, it has numerous limitations prohibiting its use in high schools. For example, common laboratory protocols such as transformations, ligations, and restriction digests require expensive materials and equipment not available to high schools. Another disadvantage is that it takes from days to weeks to assemble a complicated construct using this method. An experiment of such length far surpasses the average high school student’s attention span and time allotted in a curriculum.

Figure 1.1. Traditional BioBrick construction takes approximately 3 days to complete the addition of one BioBrick; from the digestion of the original constructs to transformation and confirmation.

The BioBytes 2.0 assembly method has provided a solution to these issues. It is fast. The addition of one BioByte to a construct takes under 10 minutes. Therefore, creating a plasmid of desired specifications can happen in an afternoon, rather than the 3 or more days to create a plasmid through the traditional BioBrick method. It is accessible. The GENOMIKON kit is completely self-contained, requiring no additional equipment or reagents other than a hot plate and a beaker. This eliminates the need for the expensive equipment and reagents found in a traditional university laboratory.

BioByte version 2.0 construction.

On top of their Genomikon toolkit, they also developed a rather nice piece of open source software(git hub) for designing plasmids and compiled a list of useful protocols.