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A Powerful Toolkit for Synthetic Biology: Over 3.8 Billion Years of EvolutionThe combination of evolutionary with engineering principles will enhance synthetic biology. Conversely, synthetic biology has the potential to enrich evolutionary biology by explaining why some adaptive space is empty, on Earth or elsewhere. Synthetic biology, the design and construction of artificial biological systems, substitutes bio-engineering for evolution, which is seen as an obstacle. But because evolution has produced the complexity and diversity of life, it provides a proven toolkit of genetic materials and principles available to synthetic biology. Evolution operates on the population level, with the populations composed of unique individuals that are historical entities. The source of genetic novelty includes mutation, gene regulation, sex, symbiosis, and interspecies gene transfer. At a phenotypic level, variation derives from regulatory control, replication and diversification of components, compartmentalization, sexual selection and speciation, among others. Variation is limited by physical constraints such as diffusion, and chemical constraints such as reaction rates and membrane fluidity. While some of these tools of evolution are currently in use in synthetic biology, all ought to be examined for utility. A hybrid approach of synthetic biology coupled with fine-tuning through evolution is suggested
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Rothschild, Lynn J. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
April 1, 2010
Publication Information
Publication: BioEssays (Special Issue: Synthetic Biology)
Volume: 32
Issue: 4
Subject Category
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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