(of a substance) made by chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product."
Creating entire biological systems from scratch would seem to be an entirely impossible task, one that only exists in fictional landscapes, and not in reality. But in truth, synthetic biologists have already been able to synthetize entire genomes of viruses and bacteria, with the first complete synthesis of a bacteria genome in 2010 by scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute. More recently, in March of this year, scientists from The New York University's Langone Medical Center synthesized the first 'man-made yeast chromosome'. This development is significant as it is the first time that a cell containing a nucleus, a eukaryote, has been synthesized in a research laboratory.
Often considered an interface between biology and engineering, synthetic biology is a difficult field to pin down using a simple one-liner definition. The researchers at syntheticbiology.org define it as "a) the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems, and b) the re-design of existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes." Simply put, synthetic biology not only modifies what already exists but also creates systems that do not naturally exist.
Synthetic biology allows scientists a greater understanding of the systems at work in our world today. It also allows them to create and modify biological systems that have never existed before to perform functions that may solve problems that exist in our world.
Still an emerging scientific field, it has its share of risks and challenges to overcome, both in terms of the technologies used as well as societal and ethical views of the field as a whole. Symposiums, conferences and reports have been organized in an attempt to mitigate the risks and to regulate and develop guidelines for the research of synthetic biology.
In this issue, we take a look at the synthetic biology research scenes in a few different countries; China, Singapore, Japan, (Korea) and the United Kingdom. We hope that this issue will give you some insight into this intriguing world of synthetic biology and what it can bring to the world.
Asia Pacific Biotech News
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