New Natural Selection: How Scientists Are Altering DNA to Genetically Engineer New Forms of Life

June 30, 2017

(Newsweek) – That is the promise of synthetic biology, a technology that is poised to change how we feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, fuel ourselves—and possibly even change our very selves. While scientists have for decades been able to practice basic genetic engineering—knocking out a gene or moving one between species—and more recently have learned to rapidly read and sequence genes, now researchers can edit genomes and even write entirely original DNA. That gives scientists incredible control over the fundamental code that drives all life on Earth, from the most basic bacterium to, well, us. “Genetic engineering was like replacing a red light bulb with a green light bulb,” says James Collins, a biological engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of synthetic biology’s early pioneers. “Synthetic biology is introducing novel circuitry that can control how the bulbs turn off and on.”

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