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Synthetic Biology Virtual Lab

Time to complete course: 35 min.

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Join cutting edge research at MIT and design a biological circuit that can sense and destroy cancer cells.

About the Synthetic Biology Virtual Simulation Lab

Use the specific microRNA profile of cancer cells to design an apoptotic biological circuit that is only activated in cancer cells. You are the only hope for a patient with a rare form of cancer.

Learn how to use the Gateway cloning technique

In the Synthetic Biology simulation, you will learn how to use the Gateway cloning technique to combine different genetic modules in an expression vector. You will learn how the Gateway cloning technique can be used to efficiently combine these modules. Use electroporation to transform the bacteria with your vector of interest and select successful transformants. You will learn all about the basics of sterile lab work and bacterial selection.

Extract and isolate plasmids

Your next task in the lab will be to grow the transformed bacteria and extract the plasmids using a ‘miniprep’ kit. You will learn how different buffers enable you to isolate plasmid, and not genomic, DNA from the cells. You will check if the plasmid, indeed, contains your circuit, and if it is mutation-free by digesting it with restriction enzymes and by using gel electrophoresis. In the end you will test your circuit in living cells to see if the cancer cells are the only cells that die.

Will you be able to find a cure for this rare form of cancer?

Techniques In Lab

  • Gateway cloning technique
  • Electroporation
  • Antibiotics selection
  • Sterile technique
  • Plasmid isolation with purification columns
  • Restriction digest
  • Gel electrophoresis

Learning Objectives

At the end of this simulation, you will be able to…

  • Engineer natural systems to perform specific functions
  • Describe the fundamentals of the Gateway cloning technique and design your own biological circuit
  • Explain and perform bacterial transformation, antibiotic selection and plasmid purification
  • Explain and perform a restriction digest of your cloning product

Screenshots of Synthetic Biology Virtual Simulation Lab


Prof. Ron Weiss

Prof. Ron Weiss

Professor of Biological Engineering

Synthetic Biology Center at MIT

Shiva Kalinga, PhD

Shiva Kalinga, PhD

Managing Director

Synthetic Biology Center at MIT

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You can now perform advanced experiments to achieve core science learning outcomes. Theory and practise is connected in a novel way, and all you need is a computer/laptop and a browser!

Our simulations run even on older laptops and computers, and you will be able to play our simulations without having to install any browser plugins.

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Our virtual laboratory simulations are aimed at university, college and high school level, within fields such as Biology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Physics and many more.

With unlimited access to more than 60 different full simulations, you will have hundreds of hours of fun, innovative and high quality learning content available to you.

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