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Synthetic biology is a field devoted to the engineering of modified or entirely novel biological elements. These elements can range in size from single proteins, to biological pathways or networks, up to entire organisms.

Regardless of the scope of the engineered element, all are essentially produced via manipulation of DNA through the processes discussed in the ‘Engineering Biology’ section. We can first look at general ideas and overarching themes seen in synthetic biology, before looking at some real-life case studies in the field.


Protein Modification

Proteins are essentially the ‘workhorses’ of cells. They are involved in almost all major functions within the cell, from replicating DNA, to breaking down energy sources, to providing a strong and consistent cellular structure.

Biological Circuits

Different biological elements can be viewed as components of a circuit, in the same way that amplifiers, resistors and transistors are components of electrical circuits. Combining elements in different ways alters the output of the system, allowing specific goals to be achieved. 

Synthetic Organisms

At the most sci-fi end of synthetic biology is the idea of synthetic life – entirely novel organisms produced from scratch using molecular building blocks.





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About the author

View full profile Jake Curtis from London

I am a student at Cambridge University who has just finished a BA in Natural Sciences, focusing on Genetics in my third year. I am now studying for an MSc in Systems Biology.