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Artificial Life

Spring 2020, Vol. 26, No. 2, Pages 260-273
(doi: 10.1162/artl_a_00318)
© 2020 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.
Engineering Life: A Review of Synthetic Biology
Article PDF (579.91 KB)
Synthetic biology is a field of scientific research that applies engineering principles to living organisms and living systems. It is a field that is increasing in scope with respect to organisms engineered, practical outcomes, and systems integration. There is a commercial dimension as well, where living organisms are engineered as green technologies that could offer alternatives to industrial standards in the pharmaceutical and petroleum-based chemical industries. This review attempts to provide an introduction to this field as well as a consideration of important contributions that exemplify how synthetic biology may be commensurate or even disproportionate with the complexity of living systems. The engineerability of living systems remains a difficult task, yet advancements are reported at an ever-increasing pace.