14 déc. 2012 (il y a 9 années et 1 mois)

446 vue(s)


The Future of Genetic Engineering

What is Synthetic Biology?

Biology re
engineered to implement novel
biological functions and systems.

For almost 40 years, genetic engineers have been decoding DNA
and transplanting individual genes from one organism into
another…Scientists now want to write brand
new genetic code,
pulling together specific genes or portions of genes plucked from
a wide range of organisms

or even constructed from scratch in
a lab

and methodically lacing them into a single set of genetic

What is Synthetic Biology?

Synthetic biologists imagine nature as a
manufacturing platform: all living things are just
crates of genetic cogs; we should be able to spill all
those cogs out on the floor and rig them into
whatever new machinery we want.

“Biology is the most interesting and powerful
technology platform anyone’s ever seen…It’s already
taken over the world with reproducing machines. You
can kind of imagine that you should be able to
program it with DNA.”

, Stanford

Key Enabling Technologies

There are several key enabling technologies that
are critical to the growth of synthetic biology.
The key concepts include standardization of
biological parts and hierarchical abstraction to
permit using those parts in increasingly complex
synthetic systems.

Key Enabling Technologies

Synthetic biologists make use of DNA Sequencing
in their work in several ways.

scale genome sequencing efforts continue to
provide a wealth of information on naturally
occurring organisms. This information provides a
rich substrate from which synthetic biologists can
construct parts and devices.

Synthetic biologists use sequencing to verify that
they fabricated their engineered system as intended.

Fast, cheap and reliable sequencing can also
facilitate rapid detection and identification of
synthetic systems and organisms.

Key Enabling Technology

A critical limitation in synthetic biology today is
the time and effort expended during fabrication
of engineered genetic sequences. To speed up
the cycle of design, fabrication, testing and
redesign, synthetic biology requires more rapid
and reliable assembly of DNA fragments
commonly referred to as gene synthesis.

Key Enabling Technology

Models inform the design of engineered
biological systems by allowing synthetic
biologists to better predict system behavior prior
to fabrication. Synthetic biology will benefit
from better models of how biological molecules
bind substrates and catalyze reactions, how DNA
encodes the information needed to specify the
cell and how multi
component integrated
systems behave.

Key Enabling Technology

Precise and accurate quantitative measurements
of biological systems are crucial to improving
understanding of biology.

Technologies which allow many parallel and
dependent measurements will be especially
useful in synthetic biology.

Recent Activity

As commercial applications for this kind of
science materialize and venture capitalists cut
checks, the hope is that synthetic biologists can
engineer new, living tools to address our most
pressing problems.

Recent Activity

LS9, a Bay area startup, has remade the inner
workings of a sugar
eating bacterium so that its
cells secrete a chemical compound that is almost
identical to diesel fuel. The company calls it a
“renewable petroleum.”


Biotechnologies, has similarly tricked
out yeast to produce an anti
malarial drug.

The Synthetic Biology Debate

The rise of synthetic biology only intensifies
ethical and environmental concerns raised by
earlier forms of genetic engineering, many of
which remain unsettled.

Risks of Synthetic Biology

Given synthetic biology’s open
source ethic, critics
cite the possibility of
: the malicious use of
DNA sequences posted on the Internet to engineer a
new virus or more devastating biological weapons.

ETC Group, an international watchdog that has
raised complicated questions about synthetic
biology since its earliest days, also warns of the
potential for “bio
error”: what unintended and
unimaginable consequences might result from
deploying all these freely reproducing, totally novel
organisms into the world? What if those living
machines don’t work exactly as planned?

Risks of Synthetic Biology

“This absolutely requires a public and political
discussion,” Thomas told me. “It’s going to change
the alignments between very large corporations. It’s
going to change the ownership and patenting of life
forms. The field is growing at such a speed and
industrial money is flowing into it at such a speed

and here you have very excited, smart, clever young
people becoming wedded to these techniques. The
worry is, there’s not a lot of space left for reflection.”

Jim Thomas, a senior researcher at ETC Group


Synthetic biology is generating lots of interest

It has promise to produce new drugs and

biology has important risks.