Metabolic Engineering

Metabolic engineering is the practice of optimizing genetic and regulatory processes within cells to increase the cells' production of a certain substance. These processes are chemical networks that use a series of biochemical reactions and enzymes that allow cells to convert raw materials into molecules necessary for the cell’s survival. Metabolic Engineering specifically seeks to mathematically model these networks, calculate a yield of useful products, and pin point parts of the network that constrain the production of these products. Genetic engineering techniques can then be used to modify the network in order to relieve these constraints. Once again this modified network can be modeled to calculate the new product yield.

The ultimate goal of metabolic engineering is to be able to use these organisms to produce valuable substances on an industrial scale in a cost effective manner. Current examples include producing beer, wine, cheese, pharmaceuticals, and other biotechnology products.

Since cells use these metabolic networks for their survival, changes can have drastic effects on the cells' ability to survive. Therefore, trade-offs in metabolic engineering arise between the cells ability to produce the desired substance and its natural survival needs. Therefore, instead of directly deleting and/or overexpressing the genes that encode for metabolic enzymes, the current focus is to target the regulatory networks in a cell to efficiently engineer the metabolism.

Read more about Metabolic Engineering:  History and Applications of Metabolic Engineering

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