Painting by Numbers, With Genetically Modified Yeast

The New York Times
August 3, 2015


This is no Seu­rat. It’s not an Andy Warhol. And it’s not your grandmother’s cross-​​stitch, either. Sci­en­tists at NYU Lan­gone Med­ical Cen­ter have genet­i­cally altered basic yeast and cre­ated these images in liv­ing color. This is a live yeast por­trait of Gre­gor Mendel, far right, the ulti­mate nod to the father of mod­ern genetics.

For cen­turies, humans have played around with yeast. In ancient days, we domes­ti­cated it to make beer and bread. This art­work is just a way to visu­al­ize the next fron­tier of yeast manipulation.

A few years ago, the geneti­cist Dr. Jef Boeke and his lab­o­ra­tory at NYU got together with researchers world­wide to syn­thet­i­cally recre­ate the 16-​​chromosome genome of brewer’s yeast. The goal of the effort, calledSyn­thetic Yeast 2.0, is to bet­ter under­stand “the com­pli­cated web of genetic inter­ac­tions that under­lie all bio­log­i­cal processes,” Dr. Boeke said.

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