For the first time ever, a team of scientists from the School of Chemistry and the Manchester Interdisciplinary Biocentre (MIB) at The University of Manchester, have successfully carried out the rewire of genetic switches.
The development could be a vital tool for the development of new drugs and even future gene therapies.
The boffins found a way of hijacking so-called 'riboswitches' and directing gene activity.
Working within cells of bacteria, chemical biologist Professor Jason Micklefield and his team have rewired these genetic switches so they are no longer activated by small naturally occurring molecules found in cells - but through the addition of a synthetic molecule.
The work builds on the recent discovery that these naturally occurring molecules can turn genes on and off by triggering riboswitches found within a large molecule called 'messenger RNA'.
In the latest research, when Manchester researchers added synthetic molecules, they bound to the riboswitches and caused the genes to spark into life.
The findings are reported in the latest edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Dr Neil Dixon, a senior researcher in the team, said: "Being able to selectively activate and regulate genes could have tremendous impact in drug discovery and the emerging field of synthetic biology.
"This technology could be used to turn on and off important biological pathways and processes, leading to a deeper understanding of how cells function.
"The next big challenge is to apply this technology to study biological processes within human cells. This could allow us to discover more about our hugely complex biological selves."