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Synthetic Biology

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here's what I got from a quick search:


Synthetic biology is a new area of research that combines science and engineering in order to design and build novel biological functions and systems. There are four main branches of research that define the field: Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, and Re-writing.



What is Synthetic Biology?

Natural biological systems process information, materials, and energy. Our understanding of these systems is rapidly advancing. Unfortunately our ability to use biology as a technology to process information, materials, and energy as we desire is limited by our understanding. To circumvent these limits, a field of study is emerging based on intentional engineering of biological systems.This Synthetic Biology is focused on the intentional design of artificial biological systems, rather than on the understanding of natural biology. It builds on our current understanding while simplifying some of the complex interactions characteristic of natural biology.


Relevant Research Areas

(all topics areas have an implicit requirement of being biological in some fashion)

Biochemical or genetic network design

Energy sources

Parts fabrication, characterization, assembly

Network analysis



Computation using biological components

Design principles of systems and networks

Device physics

Directed evolution and evolutionary optimization strategies

Information processing and control theory


Molecular machines

Modeling of synthetic systems

Noise in systems and components

Organism engineering

Programmable organisms or systems

Protein engineering

Quantitative measurement techniques


Sensors and actuators

Single molecule manipulation and/or measurement methods


Please consider this list as only a guideline for areas pertinent to Synthetic Biology. As this is an emerging field, there are likely many research fields of interest to this community that are not listed here. Similarly there are many research areas that may fall under these topics but are not pertinent to the goals of Synthetic Biology.


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Synthetic Biology is an emerging field which incorporates the design of organisms which produce specific functions. At this stage it is with bacteria, and 'parts' are incorporated depending on what function is wanted eg.fluorescence. Many engineers are getting into it, more so than scientists.

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There is an excellent article on synthetic biology in the latest New Scientist (20 May 2006).


It is a kind of engineering. You make things, but made up of biological bits and pieces, such as lengths of DNA. The researchers are building up 'tool kits' made up of special sequences of proteins / nucleic acids etc.


It is different to genetic engineering in that it starts from scratch, instead of 'stealing' genes from living organisms. Like engineering, start with simple things, and build up slowly to the complex. So far, there is only a bunch of biological tools. However, they aim to create complex items, such as the equivalent of synthetic bacteria.

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