Major developments over the last sixty years in the fields of biology, physical sciences and engineering have contributed to the emergence of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is concerned with artificial or unnatural living organisms or life. Life is a difficult concept, especially as we tend to think in terms of human or sentient life. However, in synthetic biology, life is considered in biochemical terms and is mostly concerned with some of the simplest forms of known life, such as bacteria and viruses.
All life forms are composed of molecules (e.g. proteins, sugars, DNA, RNA, lipids), which are in themselves non-living. These molecules are referred to in synthetic biology as ‘bioparts’. The biochemical definition of life is that of such bioparts assembled within a physical container (i.e. the bacterial cell wall) which are able to continually regenerate, replicate and evolve. Synthetic biology brings together the two disciplines of biology and engineering and is essentially about the redesigning and reassembly of biological systems, in other words redesigning life. The biologist wants to understand living systems better, and the engineer wants to create new things.
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