By B. Zarzur
Synthetic biology. It sounds complicated. Well, it is. Let me break it down. Have you ever heard the phrase; ‘it’s the way you were born!’ or ‘You can’t change your genes!’? I’m sure you have. Synthetic biology brings a stop to that – by allowing genes to be tailor made from scratch, and allowing them to be edited over, and over, and over again - Just like I’m editing this article.
For the past few billion years, DNA has been the code to life on earth – from bacteria, to dinosaurs, to mammals, to us, humans; DNA hand picks and writes the code for living organisms. Synthetic biology allows us to create and redesign living organisms, something that sounded impossible, and unachievable. Food, medicine, fuels, materials, can now be tailor made, piece by piece. As if that wasn’t enough, cells can almost function as computers, following a certain ‘code’ – such as stem cells turning into better tissue.
Synthetic biology has already transformed the pharmaceutical field vastly – tailer making medicine to consumers, the pharmaceutical industry is bound to boom.
The possibilities are endless. Dealing with the imminent plastic crisis? Redesigning the way buildings are built from scratch? Curing vitamin deficiencies? Writing genomes? Instant vaccines? I could go on and on about how synthetic biology can make our world a better place, (I mean, imagine if the coronavirus crisis was resolved in 2 months!). But as stan lee, once said, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’, and this can be directly applied to when dealing with synthetic biology.
To avoid mistakes, we must look at past groundbreaking biological changes, such as the ‘discovery’ and applying fossil fuels. Although using them industrially has been extremely beneficial to the economy, carbon emissions has literally skyrocketed, and caused mass destruction, and loss of habitat and species.
Overall, synthetic biology can bring a lot of promise (and already has, e.g., medicinal purpose and applications such as DNA strands), with slow, and steady progress, which must be observed and researched carefully, so that lessons are learned, and mistakes aren’t repeated.
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