Synthetic biologists look to re-engineer cells to make these molecules for specific needs, including pharmaceuticals and energy applications.

A new method developed at Northwestern University combines two state-of-the-art research approaches to create a fast, efficient way to engineer and analyze metabolic pathways.

The approaches -- cell-free protein synthesis and self-assembled monolayer desorption ionization (SAMDI) mass spectrometry -- combine to make a new tool to help engineers better understand the pathways to create molecules.

"With these two methods, we can build thousands of potential mixtures and test them all in a single day, a much faster process that will give new insights and design rules for synthetic biologists," said Milan Mrksich, the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, and Cell and Molecular Biology at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering.

The results were published June 5 in the journal Science Advances.

Michael Jewett, the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence, professor of chemical and biological engineering, and co-director of the Center for Synthetic Biology, is a co-corresponding author of the research.

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