30,983 research outputs found

    The Role of Synthetic Biology in NASA's Missions

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    The time has come to for NASA to exploit the nascent field of synthetic biology in pursuit of its mission, including aeronautics, earth science, astrobiology and notably, human exploration. Conversely, NASA advances the fundamental technology of synthetic biology as no one else can because of its unique expertise in the origin of life and life in extreme environments, including the potential for alternate life forms. This enables unique, creative "game changing" advances. NASA's requirement for minimizing upmass in flight will also drive the field toward miniaturization and automation. These drivers will greatly increase the utility of synthetic biology solutions for military, health in remote areas and commercial purposes. To this end, we have begun a program at NASA to explore the use of synthetic biology in NASA's missions, particularly space exploration. As part of this program, we began hosting an iGEM team of undergraduates drawn from Brown and Stanford Universities to conduct synthetic biology research at NASA Ames Research Center. The 2011 team (http://2011.igem.org/Team:Brown-Stanford) produced an award-winning project on using synthetic biology as a basis for a human Mars settlement and the 2012 team has expanded the use of synthetic biology to estimate the potential for life in the clouds of other planets (http://2012.igem.org/Team:Stanford-Brown; http://www.calacademy.org/sciencetoday/igem-competition/). More recent projects from the Stanford-Brown team have expanded our ideas of how synthetic biology can aid NASA's missions from "Synthetic BioCommunication" (http://2013.igem.org/Team:Stanford-Brown) to a "Biodegradable UAS (drone)" in collaboration with Spelman College (http://2014.igem.org/Team:StanfordBrownSpelman#SBS%20iGEM) and most recently, "Self-Folding Origami" (http://2015.igem.org/Team:Stanford-Brown), the winner of the 2015 award for Manufacturing

    Synthetic biology—putting engineering into biology

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    Synthetic biology is interpreted as the engineering-driven building of increasingly complex biological entities for novel applications. Encouraged by progress in the design of artificial gene networks, de novo DNA synthesis and protein engineering, we review the case for this emerging discipline. Key aspects of an engineering approach are purpose-orientation, deep insight into the underlying scientific principles, a hierarchy of abstraction including suitable interfaces between and within the levels of the hierarchy, standardization and the separation of design and fabrication. Synthetic biology investigates possibilities to implement these requirements into the process of engineering biological systems. This is illustrated on the DNA level by the implementation of engineering-inspired artificial operations such as toggle switching, oscillating or production of spatial patterns. On the protein level, the functionally self-contained domain structure of a number of proteins suggests possibilities for essentially Lego-like recombination which can be exploited for reprogramming DNA binding domain specificities or signaling pathways. Alternatively, computational design emerges to rationally reprogram enzyme function. Finally, the increasing facility of de novo DNA synthesis—synthetic biology’s system fabrication process—supplies the possibility to implement novel designs for ever more complex systems. Some of these elements have merged to realize the first tangible synthetic biology applications in the area of manufacturing of pharmaceutical compounds.

    Developments in the tools and methodologies of synthetic biology.

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    Synthetic biology is principally concerned with the rational design and engineering of biologically based parts, devices, or systems. However, biological systems are generally complex and unpredictable, and are therefore, intrinsically difficult to engineer. In order to address these fundamental challenges, synthetic biology is aiming to unify a body of knowledge from several foundational scientific fields, within the context of a set of engineering principles. This shift in perspective is enabling synthetic biologists to address complexity, such that robust biological systems can be designed, assembled, and tested as part of a biological design cycle. The design cycle takes a forward-design approach in which a biological system is specified, modeled, analyzed, assembled, and its functionality tested. At each stage of the design cycle, an expanding repertoire of tools is being developed. In this review, we highlight several of these tools in terms of their applications and benefits to the synthetic biology community

    Grounding knowledge and normative valuation in agent-based action and scientific commitment

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    Philosophical investigation in synthetic biology has focused on the knowledge-seeking questions pursued, the kind of engineering techniques used, and on the ethical impact of the products produced. However, little work has been done to investigate the processes by which these epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical forms of inquiry arise in the course of synthetic biology research. An attempt at this work relying on a particular area of synthetic biology will be the aim of this chapter. I focus on the reengineering of metabolic pathways through the manipulation and construction of small DNA-based devices and systems synthetic biology. Rather than focusing on the engineered products or ethical principles that result, I will investigate the processes by which these arise. As such, the attention will be directed to the activities of practitioners, their manipulation of tools, and the use they make of techniques to construct new metabolic devices. Using a science-in-practice approach, I investigate problems at the intersection of science, philosophy of science, and sociology of science. I consider how practitioners within this area of synthetic biology reconfigure biological understanding and ethical categories through active modelling and manipulation of known functional parts, biological pathways for use in the design of microbial machines to solve problems in medicine, technology, and the environment. We might describe this kind of problem-solving as relying on what Helen Longino referred to as “social cognition” or the type of scientific work done within what Hasok Chang calls “systems of practice”. My aim in this chapter will be to investigate the relationship that holds between systems of practice within metabolic engineering research and social cognition. I will attempt to show how knowledge and normative valuation are generated from this particular network of practitioners. In doing so, I suggest that the social nature of scientific inquiry is ineliminable to both knowledge acquisition and ethical evaluations

    Synthetic biology on acetogenic bacteria for highly efficient conversion of c1 gases to biochemicals

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    © 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Synthesis gas, which is mainly produced from fossil fuels or biomass gasification, consists of C1 gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and methane as well as hydrogen. Acetogenic bacteria (acetogens) have emerged as an alternative solution to recycle C1 gases by converting them into value-added biochemicals using the Wood-Ljungdahl pathway. Despite the advantage of utilizing acetogens as biocatalysts, it is difficult to develop industrial-scale bioprocesses because of their slow growth rates and low productivities. To solve these problems, conventional approaches to metabolic engineering have been applied; however, there are several limitations owing to the lack of required genetic bioparts for regulating their metabolic pathways. Recently, synthetic biology based on genetic parts, modules, and circuit design has been actively exploited to overcome the limitations in acetogen engineering. This review covers synthetic biology applications to design and build industrial platform acetogens

    Synthetic Biology

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    Synthetic biology gives us a new hope because it combines various disciplines, such as genetics, chemistry, biology, molecular sciences, and other disciplines, and gives rise to a novel interdisciplinary science. We can foresee the creation of the new world of vegetation, animals, and humans with the interdisciplinary system of biological sciences. These articles are contributed by renowned experts in their fields. The field of synthetic biology is growing exponentially and opening up new avenues in multidisciplinary approaches by bringing together theoretical and applied aspects of science

    Petri nets for systems and synthetic biology

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    We give a description of a Petri net-based framework for modelling and analysing biochemical pathways, which uni¯es the qualita- tive, stochastic and continuous paradigms. Each perspective adds its con- tribution to the understanding of the system, thus the three approaches do not compete, but complement each other. We illustrate our approach by applying it to an extended model of the three stage cascade, which forms the core of the ERK signal transduction pathway. Consequently our focus is on transient behaviour analysis. We demonstrate how quali- tative descriptions are abstractions over stochastic or continuous descrip- tions, and show that the stochastic and continuous models approximate each other. Although our framework is based on Petri nets, it can be applied more widely to other formalisms which are used to model and analyse biochemical networks
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