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A wise tool for modifying microbes

ORNL’s Adam Guss began adapting the SAGE gene editing tool to modify microbes in graduate school. Today, SAGE is rapidly accelerating the design of custom microbes for a variety of applications. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

A DNA editing tool adapted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists makes engineering microbes for everything from bioenergy production to plastics recycling easier and faster.

The Serine recombinase-Assisted Genome Engineering, or SAGE system, lets scientists quickly insert and test new DNA designs in a variety of microorganisms. Engineered microbes hold promise for making biofuels, recycling mixed plastics, aiding soil carbon storage and treating health disorders.

“SAGE works in virtually all microorganisms, revolutionizing what we’re able to do with microbes,” said ORNL’s Adam Guss. Microbes were modified in a few days with SAGE, compared with a tailoring process that can take weeks using existing methods.

SAGE can advance fundamental biology as well as bioengineering, Guss said. “As a national lab, enabling science everywhere is part of our mission. SAGE is a tool that can speed the work of industry and academic researchers in their own organisms of interest.”