Friday, 7 June 2013

When scientists to play God - synthetic Biology

Humanity lives today in a golden age of science, the last hundred years making unprecedented progress in all its branches. The accelerated pace of scientific development often led to controversy, scientists were accused repeatedly that "playing the God." May be mentioned some of the key moments in which researchers were accused of altering the natural course of things, 1978 when he was born Louise Brown, the first child conceived through in vitro fertilization, 1997 when Dolly the sheep was cloned or 2001, when was first sequenced the human genome.

Despite recent controversy, people began to change the nature in recent decades, but millennia good. Artificial selection has allowed the man to turn around its numerous organisms, both plant and animal. Bull of 3 species existing 10,000 years ago, people did that today there are over 800 breeds of cattle, and the wolf people have created a variety of dog breeds from the tiny Chihuahua to the massive Dane.

 Synthetic biology is the design and construction of biological devices and systems for useful purposes.[1] It is an area of biological research and technology that combines biology and engineering, thus often overlapping with bioengineering and biomedical engineering. It encompasses a variety of different approaches, methodologies, and disciplines with a focus on engineering biology and biotechnology.[2]

Synthetic biologists approach the creation of new biological systems from different perspectives, focusing on finding how life works (the origin of life) or how to use it to benefit society. The former focus includes the approach of biology, inserting man-made DNA into a living cell; and chemistry, working on gene synthesis as an extension of synthetic chemistry. The latter focus includes engineering, building the new biological system as a platform for various technologies; and rewriting, rebuilding the natural systems to provide the engineered surrogates.

The advance of synthetic biology relies on several key enabling technologies provided at ever increasing speed and lower cost. DNA sequencing, fabrication of genes, modeling how synthetic genes behave, and precisely measuring gene behavior are essential tools in synthetic biology. Its popularity has grown as a result of increasing developments within DNA synthesis technologies; now it is more affordable to synthesize a gene as opposed to cloning it. Also, genome databases can be used as a template for creating viruses at minimal cost.

Geneticists have found a number of gene sequences which correspond to differing traits in organisms; these individual gene sequences have been developed and incorporated into DNA similar to genetic "lego" blocks. This is essentially how genetic engineers alter the DNA of living organisms. What separates Synthetic biology from Genetic engineering is that rather than altering an already existent DNA strand, synthetic biology puts these "blocks" together from scratch to build an entirely new strand of DNA which is then placed into an empty living cell. These new cells can be "built" to perform a number of functions that could greatly benefit humanity. These operations do not exist in nature. Furthermore, projects involving the integration of standardized parts are the only ones that should be deemed true synthetic biology projects.[3] Synthetic biology introduces three new foundational technologies to genetic engineering: the ability to synthesize new genes in a de novo fashion; the ability to obscure complexity through abstraction; and the introduction of engineering standards.

Biosafety and biosecurity concerns are the understandable response to this new science and technology that have the potential to profoundly change the nature of life forms as we know it. Numbers of civic society groups and online forums called for study of societal and ethical impact of this new technology, licensing and monitoring. The community of synthetic biology has discussed policy options and started initiatives of self-regulation. Symposia and meetings by the broader science community have brought the efforts at developing guidelines and regulations; addressing the issues of intellectual property and governance, and the ethical, societal and legal implications. Several bioethics research institutes published reports on ethical concerns and the public perception of synthetic biology. A report from the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study ofc Issues called for enhanced federal oversight in the United States on this emerging technology.

Also grain consumed worldwide today was brought to its present form after domestication teosintului. All these radical changes that mankind has caused the surrounding world have made scientists devise the term "antropocen" (human age) to describe the period in which humanity has dominated the planet, affecting most ecosystems.

In May of 2010, the Earth has witnessed a repetition of an event after 3.7 billion years: a collection of inorganic chemicals gave rise to a form of life. If the first time the event was held inside the "primordial soup" which is the origin of all life on Earth, in 2010 this important moment in the history of the planet has been repeated in the laboratory in California led the famous biologist J. Craig Venter.

Daniel Gibson and his colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute have synthesized the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides, after which they assembled inside a yeast cell. Then they transplanted the genome into the cell from a related species, Mycoplasma capricolum. After the new cell went through the process of cell division, bacterial colony cells contained newly created exclusively characteristic of M. mycoides proteins. Successful researchers at J. Craig Venter Institute was a first step toward developing and testing new versions of existing bodies.

"The method we designed allows us to work with a DNA sequence to design organisms to our liking. We work at the nucleotide level, operating any changes we want in the genome, "said Gibson. Unlike genetic changes the researchers could achieve so far, the new method allows changing the entire genome and provides the option to add segments of DNA that do not exist in nature, but which researchers could design to get various benefits.

Julian Savulescu, professor of ethics at Oxford University, said that "Venter opened the door hidden in history, beyond which might find our destiny. The researcher was not limited to copying life or change it by genetic engineering, but made up for the role God has created artificial life that otherwise would have never existed. "Craig Venter, head of the institute that bears his name, said that the success of his team is getting a perfect link between the digital world and biology. "Digital and genetic code have a lot in common. Is a binary digital code consisting of 0 and 1, while the gene is one in the base 4 consists of A, C, G and T. Now we are able to make the other code defining the life at the most basic his level, "said Venter."What was a mystery 70 years ago is now perfectly understandable. We know what a cell know which are its components and how it works. All proteins in a cell are miniature robots. No brain, no heart, just have a structure that determines their function and the structure it is defined by the genetic code. At the moment it does not feel, however, each of the 100 trillion cells that make up your body metabolizes protein. Each day 500 billion remove skin cells - dust accumulating in your house actually consists of small elements of your body. Every two to three weeks, you renew the whole skin. In fact, this is biology: a constant state of renewal and this renewal is driven by software. Without DNA, every cell dies. In fact, this is why the radiation kills people, because disturb the genetic code, it breaks down, leading to rapid degradation of proteins, "says the researcher.

"Life is based on DNA software. Life forms is a software system based on DNA, so that when the DNA change, change species. It is a remarkably simple concept, but also remarkably difficult to implement, "said Craig Venter.To ensure that they have managed to create a synthetic cell, scientists led by Venter created a "fingerprint" that guarantee the possibility to distinguish synthetic species any species occurring naturally. Scientists have engraved their name in artificial DNA species and a message with a link to a website. "Since this is the first species that has the" parent "a computer, it seemed appropriate to include in its genome a URL to a website," said Venter.

"It's amazing that when you replace the DNA software in a cell, it immediately begins to read the new software, creating a new set of proteins, that soon all of the original species disappear and a new species arise. This discovery gives us a new approach to how we understand the concept of 'life', "said the researcher.

In a speech at Trinity College in Dublin, Craig Venter said that "it becomes absolutely clear that all living cells on the planet are biological machines driven by DNA, composed of hundreds of thousands of" robots "programmed DNA protein. Protein-robots meet precise biochemical function set that developed after a billion years of evolutionary changes of software. "Venter added that "we have now shown, using synthetic DNA genomes that when you change the DNA software in a cell, change the species. Therefore, we can digitize and create living life in the digital world. "

Venter has revealed the same lectures that he has big plans for the future: "Right now, all life, including our synthetic cell is based on other forms of cellular life. This will change in the near future as we find the right cocktail of enzymes, ribosomes and chemicals that will allow us to create new cells and new life that does not have a cell history. "

Venter's team achievements are already applied in everyday life. "For example, in partnership with the U.S. government receive email digital sequence of an influenza virus with pandemic potential and convert it into a virus genome within 12 hours. Now we are working to develop a device that will allow "conversion" in digital form in the biological, as the phone turns digital information into sound. We can deliver the DNA into digital form nearly the speed of light, following that digital information is converted into proteins, viruses and living cells. If an influenza pandemic will be able to distribute a new vaccine in seconds around the world and in future it will be possible to transmit the vaccine in digital form to every home, "said Venter."Recently, the film Contagion outlined a scenario in which people around the globe die from a pandemic, a vaccine pending. Now, the reality becomes more spectacular than SF. Using synthetic DNA, we can create a vaccine today in just 12 hours. Imagine the scenario of a major pandemic, you will not be able to go into town or you can not leave the house. Imagine that you have a box next to the computer, similar to a 3D printer that can make the vaccine almost instantly after you receive the "recipe" to an e-mail. If today we work with digital information in a short time we will use in the context of biology, "Venter added. "If 10 years ago the idea would have seemed one science fiction, now it becomes reality," said biologist.Some researchers have downplayed the success of 2010 Venter's team, pointing out that it has not created a new form of life. However, the American team has shown that scientists can switch from reading to writing their genes. Now, researchers led by Venter is working on the design of synthetic microbes, different from any other species existing in nature. "We are running a design competition which dealt exclusively designing a computer designed genome. Three genomes have been prepared, and until the end of this summer to know if any of them can function as a living cell, "Venter told the Financial Times in July this year.Venter is seeking so-called "minimal genome", ie DNA with the fewest genes, which does not lose the ability to keep a body alive. The smallest genome found in nature belongs to Mycoplasma genitalium bacterium whose genes are encoded at 525 580,000 "letters" of DNA chemical. Venter wants to know which parts of the DNA are necessary and which are superfluous life, remnants of the evolutionary process."We want to understand the fundamental principles underlying the design of life, so you can remodel - as would have made it an intelligent designer, if there was one," said Venter, with modesty.What the future will bring us synthetic biology?
Craig Venter believes that synthetic biology is a solution to many problems of mankind, from global warming to a sufficient quantity of food for a growing population.

In 2010, the U.S. Congress held a meeting on synthetic biology, Venter explained that in the future, this new branch of science could bring tremendous benefits to mankind. The researcher gave the example of microbes that could be designed to feed carbon dioxide from the air, reducing the amount of polluting gases in the atmosphere, fuel will eliminate that people can use.

Venter believes that a minimal genome, designed with an efficient design, is a key step toward designing organisms that will solve the great problems of humanity, such as the production of fuel without polluting, or obtaining food more efficiently than in conventional agriculture. To do this, Venter wants to create a "chassis" of life, which is added to various functions by biologists, engineers. "Life has evolved erratically through random changes that have occurred in the last three billion years. Now we want to design a modular system so that we have a module for chromosome replication and cell division, and then we can decide what we want to have the body metabolism. For example, we want to live based on sugar or sulfur, or want to convert carbon dioxide into methane? "Plan Venter described his team.

Synthetic biology is already producing benefits: in California, researchers have developed a yeast artificial form that produces artemisinin, a chemical that plays a key role in the fight against malaria. Normally artemisinin is extracted from the plant Artemisia annua, but yeast researchers created it allows for a lower cost, encouraging news for the hundreds of millions of people affected by malaria.Ongoing research offers encouraging prospects for synthetic biology. If NASA specialists trying to develop a bacterium to combat the effect of radiation they are exposed to astronauts, researchers at a Swiss companies have created a genetic circuit designed to detect and destroy cancer cells without the side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.Among the many possible uses of this new scientific field creating microorganisms are modeled to produce drugs to detect toxic substances, remove pollutants, and even to repair defective genes to generate hydrogen, the fuel that many experts assign a key role in post-oil economy.Venter believes that synthetic biology will be also the key element that will enable humanity to explore and colonize other planets. "Depending on the closeness of the Moon and Mars at a time, it takes 4:21 as an electromagnetic wave, light to travel from Earth to Mars. In the future, we will send new drugs or new life forms that allow the production of energy and food as digital information. Imagine that you are in a colony on Mars and want a new cell to produce a vaccine or food - you will receive an email and you will be able to convert into a biological form "predicts Venter.American researcher is not only excited about the potential of synthetic biology. In the UK, a report by the Royal Academy of Engineering concluded that synthetic biology "has tremendous importance in increasing the wealth of the nation", experts from the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation saying that this new branch of science could lead a new industrial revolution. Among the achievements of British researchers are already designing synthetic genes bacteria can be introduced into drinking water. When water is detected parasites, bacteria are synthetic genes to be colored.When one of the leading scientists in the field of synthetic biology can lead asked where synthetic biology, he replied, "it's as if you had asked in 1960 what potential computers - who could it predict ? ". The first successful synthetic biology suggests that this new branch of science will have an impact on humanity as great as that caused by the development of computers. If a few years this "playing the God" was a movie SF, synthetic biology is emerging today as a way of finding new ways to produce food, energy and medicine, reducing the harmful effects that a population Continuous development has on Earth.

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