Why work on synthetic biology?

Posted by lisa on November 17, 2022
Table of Contents


    The field of synthetic biology has incredible potential. The applications are tremendous, ranging from sustainable biofuels to improved agricultural crops and livestock. It can also be used more efficiently to make existing biological technologies work better in order to improve our quality of life.

    Synthetic biology is a new field that involves the design and creation of biological systems for useful purposes.

    The field of synthetic biology is a new one, combining science, engineering and design principles to create biological systems for useful purposes. Whereas biochemistry uses the understanding of chemistry and chemical processes to manipulate cells and their components, synthetic biology uses engineering principles (like building a machine) to create biological systems that work in similar ways. Design principles are also used when designing the systems: it's not just about making something that works, it's also about making something beautiful or interesting or even fun!

    Synthetic biology is the ultimate enabler of the life sciences.

    Synthetic biology is the ultimate enabler of the life sciences, and we have barely even begun to explore its full potential. According to a recent report from Research & Markets, synthetic biology will be worth $1 trillion by 2025. This represents only a fraction of what could be made possible with this technology.

    What does it mean for you? As an undergraduate or graduate student in STEM fields, you can have a tremendous impact on our understanding of life itself by joining this movement today.

    Synthetic biology offers new ways to address some of the world's biggest challenges in energy, healthcare, food security—and many other areas.

    Synthetic biology offers significant new approaches to tackle some of the world's most complex challenges in energy, healthcare, food security, and many other areas. This is because it provides a new approach—it’s not just about making existing biological technologies work better; it’s about building them from scratch.

    Synthetic biology is a fast-growing field with application in many different industries including energy and health care (e.g., disease diagnosis). Synthetic biology also has applications in industrial biotechnology (e.g., production of chemicals), agriculture (e.g., insecticide resistance), and environmental science (e.g., waste remediation).

    Synthetic biology could help solve some of the world's most pressing problems, including producing sustainable biofuels and improving agricultural crops.

    • Synthetic biology could be used to produce biofuels.
    • Synthetic biology could be used to improve agricultural crops and livestock.
    • For example, cows that do not need as much land as they currently require in order to graze on grasses can be created using synthetic biology. These cows would, in turn, produce less methane than their natural counterparts. The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the U.S. livestock industry accounts for 7 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). By reducing those emissions through synthetic biology techniques such as gene editing or creating "emission-free" cows with no need for grazing land at all -- think industrial-scale feed lots -- we'd all breathe a little easier too!

    Synthetic biology can be used to make existing biological technologies, like insulin or vaccines, work better.

    Synthetic biology also can be used more efficiently to make existing biological technologies work better in order to improve our quality of life. For example, researchers at MIT have developed a way to use synthetic DNA to control when and where genes are expressed by using light rather than electrical pulses for gene regulation. In this case, synthetic biology was used as an interface between biology and electronics.

    The ability of synthetic biologists to design new biological systems can be applied towards areas such as medicine and public health research. For example, many diseases are caused by viruses or bacteria that use our cells as hosts for replication and survival within us; therefore finding ways to disrupt these processes could provide important treatments for common diseases like cancer or HIV/AIDS (if you want more information on how viruses affect humans check out this link). Synthetic biology also has applications in agriculture where scientists have created engineered plants that produce higher yields with less water consumption than traditional crops.

    The applications are tremendous.

    Synthetic biology can be used to develop new organisms, from bacteria that will eat pollutants in the environment to plants that produce chemicals or materials more efficiently than they currently do. It can also be used to create better medicines and drugs, as well as new energy sources.

    These applications of synthetic biology are just starting to emerge, but they're already being hailed by some scientists as the next big thing. But what makes synthetic biology so promising?

    From the DNA to the proteins

    DNA is the blueprint for all living things. It's made up of two strands, or helices, and it contains the genetic code that tells your cells how to make proteins. The order of its building blocks (or bases) determines which proteins are created; if you change the order of these bases, you can change what your cells produce.

    DNA looks like a twisted ladder with rungs made out of four different chemicals called bases—adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G). These letters spell out the genetic code that tells our bodies what kinds of proteins should be made from DNA: ATCGTTACTC...the list goes on!

    Leverage design principles from living cells

    At its core, synthetic biology is about studying and building on the design principles of living cells. In other words, it's an attempt to understand how natural biology works so that we can use those principles to create new solutions for human problems.

    The benefits of this approach are many:

    • It helps us better understand our world by providing insights into the mechanisms underlying life in all its forms.
    • Synthetic biology has enormous potential to cure diseases and improve human health; it could even save lives by eliminating deadly pathogens like HIV/AIDS or Zika virus.
    • In agriculture, synthetic biology could be used to create new strains of crops with higher yields (e.g., drought-resistant corn) or more nutritious produce (e.g., fruits and vegetables with higher vitamin content).

    Synthetic biology is a great playground for engineers

    As an engineer, you know that the best way to solve a problem is to use engineering principles. Synthetic biology is at its infancy and there are many unsolved problems in this field. There’s plenty of room for you to apply your knowledge and expertise as an engineer!

    Nature is more complex than we think...

    You might think that you understand how the natural world works, but there are actually many things about it that we don't know. Synthetic biology is a field that helps us better understand biology and use it for our own purposes.

    This is because nature can be extremely complicated. Most people think of living things as only having a few parts (like an eye), but in reality they have millions of parts working together to keep them alive and healthy. If one part stops working properly, then the whole thing can fail—and fast! That's why synthetic biologists want to build artificial versions of these biological systems so they can figure out how they work by studying these artificial versions in a controlled environment like the lab instead of trying to figure out how all those millions of cells interact with each other through experiments with actual humans or animals (which would be very dangerous).

    Synthetic biology holds the key to our future's challenges

    Synthetic biology is a great playground for engineers, and it’s a way to create new organisms. Nature is more complex than we think: there are many processes that occur in the cells that we don’t understand. Synthetic biology can help solve our future's challenges by creating organisms with specific functions, like producing biofuels or new materials.

    This field will shape most of our future challenges!

    Synthetic biology is a new field, but it will be important in the future. You'll be able to use synthetic biology to solve real-world problems and build better solutions.

    It's a great playground for engineers to design and test their ideas. Nature is more complex than most people think, and synthetic biology holds the key to our future's challenges.


    We’re living in a time of incredible change. We can see it in the rapid advance of technology and its impact on our lives, from smartphones to social media to artificial intelligence. And we can see it in medicine and biotechnology, as new therapies for previously incurable diseases become available every day. Synthetic biology is part of this revolution—and it could be an essential tool for solving some of our most pressing global problems. With synthetic biology, we have the chance to build new biological systems that do more than just survive; they thrive!

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