Synthetic Biology

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“Since the dawn of civilization, humans have been builders and engineers, constructing houses from bricks, machines from metals and now genomes from nucleotides.” (Wang 2010)


Decoding Synthetic Biology (July 22, 2009)
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  • The current state of the field indicates that additional research is required before the full potential of synthetic biology can be achieved.
  • Most critically, is the present inability to predict the functions of biological parts (Young and Alper 2009).
  • However, synthetic biology has the potential to influence various areas of science and engineering, and consequently daily life (Andrianantoandro et al. 2006).

Current Applications

Synthetic biology is presently being introduced, and applied to the following fields:

  • Vaccine development
  • DNA synthesis
  • Drug production
  • Experimental diesel production (Biotechnology Industry Organization 2010)

Potential Applications

  • Increase the knowledge of biological systems
  • Accelerate the process of genetic engineering (Young and Alper 2009; NSF 2010)
  • Decrease cost of drug and vaccine production
  • Produce microbes to fight cancer (Keasling 2008; Hsu 2010b)
  • Design organisms to convert abundant renewable resources into high energy molecules (Keasling 2008).
  • Sequester carbon
  • Clean up pollutants
  • Fabricate materials
  • Process information (Keasling 2008; Gill 2010; NSF 2010)

Theoretical Applications

Researchers have proposed that once a mastery of synthetic biology is achieved, the following applications may become viable:

  • super-efficient agriculture via altered nutrient uptake
  • photosynthetic oil factories
  • humans that photosynthesize
  • symbiotic bacteria to cleanse body (teeth, facial cleanser)
  • terraforming Mars
  • converting light to chemical or electrical energy
  • reversal of aging, augmented immune system (OpenWetWare 2010)

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