DailyDirt: Synthetic Biology Is Growing Up
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
Biology has inspired artists and scientists and engineers to create all kinds of things from velcro to still life paintings. Living organisms have a seemingly endless supply of tricks up their sleeves, so why not try to use some biological mechanisms to do our bidding? Scientists can already re-create some biology by growing organs that could be used for transplants and by creating an (almost) completely synthetic cell based on a bacterium that normally infects goats (search for J. Craig Venter). Synthetic biology still has a long way to go, but it's a field that is maturing quickly. Here are just a few links on this fast-growing biotechnology.
- Since 2004, synthetic biology startups have raised around $1.84 billion -- based on the promises of Lego-like biotech that would allow scientists to grow biofuels or custom medicines or even genetically engineered buildings. However, the ability to engineer custom living organisms hasn't (yet!) lived up to the hype. (The field is only about a decade old, folks.) [url]
- Before synthetic biology gets out of hand, there are a bunch of groups that want to regulate the creation of artificial organisms. Some folks are justifiably concerned that harmful genetically engineered organisms (or even non-living genetic material) could destroy our existing ecosystem -- or just create ethical abominations. [url]
- Engineers have developed a programming language to create synthetic DNA that could help design biological macromolecules for all kinds of uses. It's just a first step towards making biology more accessible to engineering students and tinkerers outside the field of biology. [url]