What is Synthetic Biology ?
Biological systems are noisy and unpredictable. To create well-behaved and predictable systems, one needs standards and rules of composition. Unfortunately, the IEEE equivalent standards in biology do not exist. Enter the world of synthetic biology !
Synthetic Biology is a forward engineering approach to make novel and well-behaved parts, devices and circuits. The ground-up construction of biological system calls for -- adequate part characterisation, assembly of parts into modules and modules into networks. Recent developments have made it possible to install artificial genetic circuits as applets in-vivo, construct switches, cascades, stable oscillators, make genes from junk DNA, chemically synthesize non-natural DNA and so on. One can even think of rebooting an organism with a chemically synthesized genome, designed in the computer.
In future, one would see faster and cheaper methods to create organisms, a non AGTC DNA, rapid synthesis of microbes from well characterized modules and their large scale applications in environment, energy and health. A signifcant pay off of synthetic biology approach would be identification of the rules of composing organisms. Currently, we do not understand the boundary conditions of constructing biological systems ground up. In our opinion, the lack of knowledge is not a limitation but a great opportunity !
1. Enabling the new biology of 21st century (Editorial)
Systems and Synth. Biol 2006: 1(1), 1-2
Pawan K Dhar, Ron Weiss
2. Synthesizing non-natural parts from natural genomic template
Journal of Biological Engineering 2009: 3, 2
Dhar PK, Thwin CS, Tun K, Maurer-Stroh S., Eisenhaber F., Tsumoto Y., Surana