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Tren Riset Bahan Sintetik Hayati dan Supramolekul

Ilmuwan asal Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Science and Research (JNCASR) dan Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) di India menciptakan satu mimik sintetis minimalis jaringan sitoskeletal (cytoskeletal networks) dengan program struktural dan temporal. Fokusnya, kendali pertumbuhan sistem molekul monomerik dua-unsur. Hasil riset itu didanai oleh Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology di India dan dirilis oleh jurnal Nature Communications edisi 25 Januari 2019.

Ahli JNCASR dan inStem berupaya menanamkan sifat ‘mirip hayati’ (lifelike) ke dalam amfibi kimia guna merakit secara mandiri supramolekul. “While biological systems elegantly modulate self-assembly with a great precision, imparting transient and living polymerization property in chemical amphiphiles has been daunting task thus far. Design of an in-situ forming amphiphile enabled us to study the dynamic assembled structures at will,” papar Dr. Praveen Kumar Vemula, Asst. Investigator dari inStem (National Centre for Biological Sciences, 20/12/2018).

Hasil riset itu menunjukkan bahwa reaksi programan temporal dan struktural secara tepat mengontrol pertumbuhan satu dimensi rakitan supra-molekul biologis-alamiah melalui kendali ketersediaan ‘bahan bakar’. Pertumbuhan struktur nanofibro ini didorong oleh interaksi antar molekul sangat lemah--'polimerisasi supramolekul’ (supramolecular polymerization process) seperti hidrofob (mirip lipid bilayers membran) dan interaksi aromatik (mirip penumpukan nukleobase DNA) dan karenanya sangat dinamis dan memiliki fitur perbaikan sendiri seperti banyak rakitan-rakitan biologis.

“This synthetic monomeric system is elegantly designed, so as to give rise to a primary reaction that would convert an inactive (non-assembling) monomeric system into an active one (which triggers assembly) upon addition of alkyl amines (fuel),” ungkap Associate Professor Dr. Subi George dari JNCASR (National Centre for Biological Sciences, 20/12/2018).

Studi ilmiah tim ahli asal India itu mewakili tahap penting pengembangan bahan-bahan supra-molekul, mirip proses biologis-hidup (lifelike), dan mampu beradaptasi. “This work is a significant advancement to design bio-mimetic active systems operating under out of equilibrium conditions, with spatio-temporal programming compared to the majority of the synthetic passive systems reported so far, which work under thermodynamic equilibrium with only spatial complexity,” papar Shikha Dhiman, co-author penulisan karya ilmiah itu (National Centre for Biological Sciences, 20/12/2018).

Kini para ahli berupaya membangun sistem-sistem ‘lifelike’ sintetik yang  berpikir, belajar, dan beradaptasi seperti halnya makhluk hidup. Tim ahli itu berharap dapat menerapkan prinsip ini dan memanfaatkan arsitektur-nano rakit-mandiri supra-molekul secara dinamis (dynamic self-assembly nano-architectures) proses biologis-alamiah. “Controlling the self-assembled nano-architectures using stimuli such as enzymes and pH has been fascinating,” papar Ashish Dhayani, penulis studi ilmiah ini (National Centre for Biological Sciences, 20/12/2018).

***

Awal abad 21, para ahli di berbagai negara berupaya menciptakan bahan-bahan sintetik biologis-alamiah. Laporan U.S. Trends in Synthetic Biology Research (2015), misalnya, menyebutkan bahwa 2008-2014, Amerika Serikat menanam investasi sekitar 820 juta dollar AS di bidang riset biologi sintetik. Departemen Pertahanan Amerika Serikat (DoD) menjadi penyandang dana utama dari riset itu.

Misalnya, investasi Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) meningkat dari hampir zero tahun 2010 naik ke lebih dari 100 juta dollar AS tahun 2014. Jumlah itu tiga-kali lebih besar dari alokasi dana riset serupa dari National Science Foundation (NSF) di Amerika Serikat. DoD dan DARPA mendanai banyak riset Pemerintah AS di bidang biologi sintetik—kurang dari 1% total dana federal AS ke riset risiko biologi sintetik seperti teknik-teknik baru gene-editing, dan 1% dana federal AS ke isu etika, legal, dan sosial lainnya.

“The increase in DARPA research spending comes as NSF is winding down its initial investment in the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, or SynBERC. After the SynBERC funding ends next year, it is unclear if there will be a dedicated synthetic biology research program outside of the Pentagon. There is also little investment addressing potential risks and ethical issues, which can affect public acceptance and market growth as the field advances,” ungkap Dr. Todd Kuiken, senior program associate dengan proyek Synthetic Biology Project pada Wilson Center (Todd Kuiken, 15/9/2015).

Biologi sintetik adalah studi rekayasa sistem biologi. Ahli meneliti potensi bio-fabrik tanaman. Setiap organisma menghasilkan protein banyak. Kini ahli antara lain meriset tanaman memproduksi misalnya medikasi atau polimer untuk misi eksplorasi ruang angkasa. Misalnya, Kolaborasi ahli NASA Ames Research Center, International Space University, University of Strasbourg, dan University of Utah di Amerika Serikat melakukan uji-coba biologi sintetik di ruang angkasa selama 18 Desember – 28 Desember 2018 (University of Utah, 20/12/2018).

Proyek riset itu dipimpin oleh ahli kimia Profesor Ming Hammond asal Utah University. Uji-coba sains (Hydra-1) itu meneliti real-time bagaimana tanaman hasil rekayasa bio-manufaktur protein tertentu, melakukan proses itu di ruang-angksa di International Space Station—satelit artifisial dengan orbit rendah sejak peluncuran 1998 sebagai lab riset ruang angkasa.

“We had to take something that worked beautifully in the most carefully controlled and nurturing conditions...and get it to work under very stringent, harsh and challenging conditions without human intervention in the plant cube. By day four or five we should know if the experiment worked...There's so many variables that we can't know the answers to. I plan for this experience to prepare us for doing more chemistry experiments in space,” papar Profesor Ming Hammond (University of Utah, 20/12/2018).

Januari 2019, tabung eksperimen itu kembali ke Bumi dan hasilnya dikaji oleh tim ahli di University of Strasbourg di Perancis. Eksperimen Hydra-1 itu dapat menjadi kerangka kerja komersil eksperimen sains ruang angkasa berbasis tabung biologi sintetik. “There's a lot of promise, potential and hope that we can use the tools developed in synthetic biology to solve problems...not just that you would find in space, but where you have extreme limitation of resources... The benefit is that you can take seeds with you..They're very lightweight. They grow and gain biomass using the CO2 that we breathe out. And if those plants can produce proteins on demand--we know that plants are able to produce anti-viral and anti-cancer antibodies on a large scale,” ungkap Profesor Ming Hammond (University of Utah, 20/12/2018). 

Oleh: Servas Pandur