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Emerging tools for synthetic biology in plants

, | February 10, 2014
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Synthetic biology is generally held to be the rational design of biological components to achieve a desired purpose. It attempts to replace the inherent messiness of biology with the ordered precision and predictability of engineering. It’s a tall task, and requires an intimate understanding of the biological process that is to be engineered. Not surprisingly, much of the initial work has been done in bacteria where such detailed understanding is a little easier to obtain. Complex multicellular organisms such as plants pose additional problems, but as this special issue demonstrates, this has not prevented rapid progress.

Fortunately, synthetic biology lends itself well to a reductionist approach, as illustrated by the ‘BioBricks’ popularised by the annual iGEM competition. This allows relatively complex and sophisticated ‘devices’ to be constructed from simple components. In fact, one of the strengths of synthetic biology is that new synthetic tools can be developed that, once obtained, permit the creation of new levels of artificial biological synthesis. Thus synthetic biology is progressing via ‘bootstrapping’, or as Baron von Münchhausen would have put it, is pulling itself out of the swamp by its own hair.

Read the full, original paper: Emerging tools for synthetic biology in plants

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The GLP featured this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. The viewpoint is the author’s own. The GLP’s goal is to stimulate constructive discourse on challenging science issues.

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