Synthetic biology is growing in both interest and impact. This developing field combines techniques from such disciplines as genetic engineering, molecular engineering, systems biology, and computer engineering. The scientists and engineers who work in this field design and construct novel biological entities (e.g., proteins, genetic circuits, metabolic pathways, etc.) and redesign existing biological systems.
Synthetic biology is illuminating the mechanisms and organization behind natural biological functions, which is accelerating the engineering of smaller parts into larger biological systems. Just as electrical engineers can design highly complex integrated circuits, biological engineers can build engineered biological systems and organisms. Designing these systems offers the potential for new breakthroughs in the production of chemicals and biofuels, materials, pharmaceuticals, and crops.
Several key enabling technologies, such as DNA sequencing, DNA synthesis, and modeling and simulation applications, have been critical to the development of synthetic biology. These technologies make up what is commonly called the synthetic biology “toolbox.”
This supplement reviews two new additions to the synthetic biology toolbox — massively parallel DNA synthesis and CRISPR-Cas systems...
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