Synthetic biology is a very new field, and it's also a very human-centric field. As such, there are quite a few people who don't understand the basics of this exciting new science. That's why I'm here to help! In this post we'll look at some things that most people don't know about synthetic biology—but if you do know these things, they'll help you get started on your career in bioengineering or medicine.
When we say "synthetic biology," it can be hard to know what exactly we're talking about. The field is very broad, and while some aspects are fairly straightforward—like engineering the DNA of a living organism or creating new materials—others are much less intuitive.
It's easy to confuse synthetic biology with other related fields such as genetic engineering or evolutionary theory. These topics tend to overlap in their focus on how genes influence our bodies, but they use different methods for studying them. Also keep in mind that 'evolution' refers only to changes over time; biological evolution does not necessarily lead us closer toward perfection, nor does it indicate anything about how close humans are from animals like apes.*
Synthetic biology is an exciting area of science. It’s a relatively new field, with many new developments happening every day. There are also many opportunities to get involved in synthetic biology research and career paths that you may not have considered before.
In addition to the fact that it's a new field, synthetic biology is also a very human-centric field. The things we want to do with biology are often related to humans. The ways in which these things can be done are limited by our understanding of how biology works.
It's important to note that while synthetic biology has many aspects that are familiar from classical genetic engineering approaches (e.g., gene cloning and expression), there are more opportunities for innovation because all parts of the process—from design through implementation—are now possible using computer tools and automation instead of relying exclusively on human labor as was done previously with Classical Genetic Engineering techniques such as transgenesis and tissue culture methods.
Synthetic Biology is sometimes described as "biohacking", but this term has different connotations depending on who you talk too so we're sticking with calling it Synthetic Biology!
Synthetic biology is a new field of science that crosses many different fields. It's a human-centric field, but it also involves computer science and computational biology.
It's an exciting field because it deals with understanding how we can use biological systems to build new ones—and it uses the power of computers to model these systems.
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t know much about synthetic biology—a field that combines engineering, chemistry and biology to create new living organisms. And if you do know something about it, it might just be that everything in your body is made of DNA or that yeast can be used to make beer.
To find out more about what people think about synthetic biology and its future impact on society, researchers from the University of Sheffield asked over 3 million people from around the world questions about their views on genetic modification during an online survey. Their results were published in Nature Biotechnology this week (1).
As you might expect, a lot has changed since these surveys were conducted over 10 years ago! But one thing remains constant: most people still don’t really understand what “synthetic biology” really means or how it relates to them personally.
Protein: A chain of amino acids that perform a specific function in the cell.
Gene: The part of a cell that carries DNA, which contains all the information needed to build and maintain an organism.
DNA vs RNA: DNA is a molecule with two strands held together by hydrogen bonds between complementary bases. It stores genetic information as a sequence of nucleotides (adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine). RNA is similar except that uracil replaces thymine in its nucleotide sequence; it also contains phosphate groups on each sugar (deoxyribose) rather than ribose sugars found in DNA.
RNA vs DNA: RNA's primary function is to serve as an intermediary between DNA and protein synthesis.
Let's start with genetics.
Genetics is a very common concept, but not everyone understands it. There are many different types of genetics: some are used by humans, some by plants and animals, while others are found in viruses or bacteria. The field of genetics is important for understanding biology because it helps us understand how living things work on a molecular level. Genetic engineering is a type of synthetic biology that uses genetic engineering techniques to modify existing DNA sequences in living organisms (usually microbes).
DNA is a molecule that encodes genetic information. It's made of two strands twisted together, which are linked by base pairs: adenine and thymine (A-T), cytosine and guanine (C-G). These bases pair up to form a codon—think of it as the word "the" in DNA code. A sequence of three letters (known as a triplet) codes for each amino acid, and these proteins form our bodies' structures.
DNA is found in the nucleus of cells.
These things are complex and important, but the basics will help you get started. Knowing what DNA is and how it works should be your first step. Understanding how to read a sequence of DNA is another good one, as well as understanding what the letters mean when they're put together. The basics are important, but not as important as understanding what you're doing: why you're doing it and who you're doing it for.
Understanding the basics of synthetic biology is important in order to support the rest of your career. Synthetic biology is a human-centric field which means it aims to solve problems that are important for humans, but not necessarily for other living organisms.
Synthetic biologists work in many different fields, including medicine and drug design, food production and sustainability, energy generation and distribution and even space exploration!
It’s important to know the basics of synthetic biology if you want to understand more about it, but there are also many ways in which the field is not simple. Synthetic biology crosses many different fields and uses a lot of complicated concepts, so it can be hard for people without an academic background in science or biology to understand what's going on. But with some basic knowledge about the field, you'll be ready to learn more and work with others who do specialize in synthetic biology!