Essay on SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY

Submitted By mialyrabe
Words: 1430
Pages: 6

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY – by Mialy Rabe
Synthetic biology or SynBio is an emergent scientific/technological topic that has a tremendous over increase in social media and networks past 9/11. Jonathan Tucker and Raymond Zlinsklas, in The Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology defined it as the “redesign of natural biological systems for greater efficiency. It is as well the construction of “genetic circuits” and metabolic pathways for practical purposes”. “Synthetic genomics” refers to the laboratory synthesis and assembly of genomes and their expression to produce viruses or cellular life forms, whereas “synthetic biology” refers more broadly to the creation of synthetic biological systems…” (38).1 “This prominent emerging technology aims at applying standardized engineering techniques to biology and thereby create organisms or biological systems with novel or specialized functions to address countless needs”(2).2 It “combines elements of biology, engineering, genetics, chemistry, and computer science”(36).3 This area of study is very diverse and incorporates all of these elements into understanding new ways of thinking and creations that bypass natural processes of regular biology. Significant study and research is focused on the movement from molecular biology to synthetic biology and the significance of DNA. As the technology advances, SynBio are expected to become simpler and easier to use than traditional genetic engineering”3.The beneficial examples of synthetic biology are: creation of bioengineered microorganism that can produce pharmaceuticals, detect toxic chemicals, break down pollutants, repair defective genes, destroy cancer cells, and generate hydrogen for the post-petroleum economy.
Some people find synthetic biology not to be a major concern. For example, part of the Synbio community believes that it is unlikely due to the challenges of developing synthetic pathogens and synthesizing genomes. “The difficulty of producing a genome via any of these pathways depends on the length and nature of the desired sequence, and the difficulty of using that genome to construct a viable organism depend greatly on the type of organism” (Epstein).4 However, there are some viruses that could be more easily produced by synthetic biology rather than the formal process of natural biology. On the other hand, others find this form of research intrusive because human beings are trying to become some sort of creator. “The complex interactions of biological parts and their evolution will likely lead to unpredictable, emergent behavior in engineered organisms and ecosystems” (39).4 Some skeptics also think that science still must proceed unhindered despite threats. If biological research and the development of new scientific techniques are not allowed to progress, the very fabric of human existence could be affected; therefore, all nations should safeguard their sciences and ensure that future scientific developments generate significant advances for the good of all. This is why it is difficult to get the government on board with the study and research of synthetic biology at much serious level. However, in general, there is a consensus that threats are imminent in the misuse of dual-use technology due to rapid increase in technology, advance in connectedness of customers and DNA synthesis industries, availability of DNA sequences, and cheaper oligonucleotides technologies. Workshop participants in the IASB (International Association for Synthetic Biology) all agreed that “synthetic biology's principal risk for the immediate future was that terrorists could use artificial DNA to recreate naturally occurring pathogens like smallpox or 1918 influenza”. “Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, stated “the most important under-addressed threat relating to terrorism…is that of terrorists using a biological weapon” (1).5 The article, Keeping Science in the Right Hands: Policing the New Biological Frontier requires a…