Synthetic biology has been referred to as "extreme genetic engineering." A collection of emerging techniques, it includes programing and writing DNA in new ways to create novel, self-replicating organisms.
Stretches of human-made DNA may be ordered through the internet from genetic "foundries" and a "Registry of Standard Biological Parts." Upon arrival, they may bemixed and matched. In this manner, forms of life are created from genetic segments not previously in existence. The new living entitles are referred to as biological "devices," "systems," or "machines."
"...brings together engineering and the life sciences in order to design and construct new biological parts, devices and systems that do not currently exist in the natural world or to tweak the designs of existing biological systems. Synthetic biologists, engaged in a kind of "extreme genetic engineering," hope to construct artificial living systems to perform specific tasks such as produce pharmaceutical compounds or energy."
Synthetic biology is inadequately regulated.
How do you feel about teenagers genetically engineering biological organisms?
Do you think that synthetic biology requires greater public awareness and control?
"Genetic engineering is passé. Today, scientists aren't just mapping genomes and manipulating genes, they're building life from scratch - and they're doing it in the absence of societal debate and regulatory oversight. Dubbed "genetic engineering on steroids,"the social, environmental and bio-weapons threats of synthetic biology surpass the possible dangers and abuses of biotech. Synbio is inspired by the convergence of nanoscale biology, computing and engineering. Using a laptop computer, published gene sequence information and mail-order synthetic DNA, just about anyone has the potential to construct genes or entire genomes from scratch (including those of lethal pathogens)."
AHB QUERY: What role do you think biotech patenting plays in driving the search for synthetic biology applications?
Should scientific inquiry be driven so entirely by how it can translate into practical applications? Why/why not?
What are some implications of seeking primarily high-tech solutions to social needs?
AHB QUERY: Presently, there is little public discussion of human applications of synthetic biology. Should it be discussed?
Princeton University biologist Lee Silver's views on human genetic engineering more generally, below, may be relevant to such consideration. How would the Precautionary Principle apply to what Professor Silver seems to be advocating?
(running time for video: under 7 minutes)
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Copyright 2007 • Alliance for Humane Biotechnology • All rights reserved