Parens,E., Johnston J., Moses J.. (2009). Ethical issues in Synthetic Biology.. January 15, 2016., from: Synthetic Biology Project. Web site:

Synthetic Biology Project. (2009). What Synthetic Biology is? January 15, 2016., from: Wilson Center.Web site:

Synthetic Biology. (2015). What is Synthetic Biology?. January 15, 2016., from: Synthetic Biology FAQ. Web site:






Synthetic biology is still in its infancy, however several studies show a clear development in the generation of new medical therapies, obtaining biofuels, and the production of new materials. The identification of links between metabolic pathways and response of the cells, will allow the construction of genetic circuit  more complex.

Although the development of synthetic biology have technical problems, practical, legal and ethical, they have to be solved, synthetic biology will continue to grow with the addition of more such to the field, and will be one of the main tools to understand, design, and create new biological systems.




Synthetic biology is an extreme form of genetic engineering, an emerging technology that is developing rapidly and entering the marketplace.

Synthetic biology could have serious impacts on the health of people and ecosystems, on our planet’s biodiversity and for communities on the front lines of corporations’ plans to deploy new technologies and novel organisms for profit. 

For do one criterion about this topic, we need know that is Synthetic Biology and their advantages and disadvantages about environment, the life in this world and the changes that brings the new science. In this paper show some benefits and danger that have by sinthetic biology.



“I find that the scientific community is sensitive to the need for appropriate control of research and that the scientific community does this better than outside groups.”  [That is the message from Asilomar and the message from the Fink report [issued by the National Research Council in 2003 reviewing regulations of dual-use biological research].

The benefits of pursuing synthetic biology can be divided into two categories: advancing basic knowledge and creating new products.

The biologists have to first do the basic scientific work of determining
what are the minimal requirements for life.One goal of synthetic biology is to better answer basic questions about the natural world and to elucidate complex biological processes—about how DNA, cells, organisms and biological systems function.
How did life begin? How does a collection of chemicals become animated life? And of course, what is life? Synthetic biologists
take to heart the last words that the physicist Richard Feynman putatively wrote on his chalkboard: “What I cannot create I do not

One of the hopes is that, by engineering or reengineering living organisms in the lab, synthetic biologists will be able to understand how the biological world works in areas where earlier analytical approaches fell short. As the molecular biologist Steven Benner has suggested, the proof of the pudding may be in the making.

A second sort of benefit of synthetic biology would come in the form of practical applications, such as the creation of new energy sources, new biodegradable plastics, new tools to clean-up environments, new ways of manufacturing medicines and new weapons.

It is hoped not only that these applications will create products that are completely new but also that their production will be cleaner, faster and cheaper than we can currently

Many experts argued that synthetic biology would contribute immensely to a future that enables energy independence from traditional sources, and also better prepare modern societies against the threat of infectious disease outbreaks or pandemics. Yet that free-wheeling community also presents a challenge for the federal government, which wants to ensure that rogue individuals don’t intentionally or unintentionally pose dangers by unwisely tinkering with infectious disease agents or unleashing new synthetic organisms upon the environment.   One solution to the scrutiny problem may come from boosting collaboration between professional researchers and garage biologists, experts said.



“The biggest challenge is not necessarily creating life, but knowing that you have created life”                                                                                                           George Attard 

Some harms are about potential physical harms, such as those that might be done to the health of persons or the environment if a synthesized molecule or organism mutated or escaped and contaminated someone or something.

“Adapting to the human lifestyle is very complicated, so I would guess that we would fail if we tried to engineer a dangerous organism. Ebola, for example, is very pathogenic. It infects families and health workers, but it never spreads widely because it is too lethal – it isn’t in the community long enough to spread. Bird flu is not likely to spread widely until it mutates to become less pathogenic”

The ways in which synthetic organisms will interact with the natural environment are unpredictable and potentially devastating and permanent.

Some discussion of physical harms distinguishes between known harms (for example, we know that the synthetically engineered smallpox virus could be fatal
to anyone exposed), unknown harms (for example, although we know that bacteria and viruses mutate rather quickly, we do not know how a synthetically engineered
virus or bacterium will mutate) and unknown unknowns (that is, harms that, given the
current state of our knowledge, we cannot yet anticipate).

There is often debate about whether a proposed means to respond to risk of physical harm is ethical. For instance, one mechanism for dealing with security concerns, secrecy, has been called both ethically necessary and unethical.


The concern that humans might be overreaching when we create organisms that never before existed can be a safety concern, but it also returns us to disagreements about what is our proper role in the natural world (a debate largely about non-physical harms or
harms to well-being).

There is also some, although often not as much, agreement that preventing or reducing non-physical harms is an important social goal. That is, we have some agreement at the level of core values that human flourishing is good; we should work to preserve equality, promote prosperity and uphold shared moral values. But compared with physical harms, there is significantly more disagreement about whether a particular activity threatens these values, how we should reduce nonphysical harm, who should be responsible and what may be sacrificed along the way. We do not always agree about what counts as a non-physical harm, because we disagree about what is human well-being, or about how best to understand fairness, equality and our appropriate attitude toward nature. It is crucial to recognize that, as with physical harms, we disagree about nonphysical harms because we adopt different ethical frameworks. In fact, we suggest here that the roots of the disagreements about physical and non-physical harms are often
intimately related, if not the same.

Experts emphasized the need for better risk assessment for future synthetic biology products, as well as perhaps mandatory surveillance by companies that do commercial DNA synthesis.bghbnjkm



In 2003, only 3 peer-reviewed articles listed in Elsevier’s Scopus database used the term synthetic biology; in 2013, more than 800 did. Last year, the field also marked one of its biggest developments. Capitalizing on a discovery by biochemical engineer Jay Keasling of the University of California, Berkeley, the Paris-based pharmaceutical firm Sanofi began large-scale production of a partially synthetic form of the malaria drug artemisinin, which is normally derived from plants (see Nature 494, 160–161; 2013). And more big advances are in the pipeline: at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, for example, researchers are creating synthetic fungal enzymes that can convert sugars from broken-down plant biomass into fuels and other industrially useful chemicals.

But, the first of the term “synthetic biology” was in Stéphane Leduc’s publication of « Théorie physico-chimique de la vie et générations spontanées » (1910) and « La Biologie Synthétique » (1912). Sixty-four years later, in 1974, the term gained its more modern usage when Polish geneticist Wacław Szybalski used the term “synthetic biology”, writing:

Let me now comment on the question “what next”. Up to now we are working on the descriptive phase of molecular biology. … But the real challenge will start when we enter the synthetic phase of research in our field. We will then devise new control elements and add these new modules to the existing genomes or build up wholly new genomes. This would be a field with an unlimited expansion potential and hardly any limitations to building “new better control circuits” or ….. finally other “synthetic” organisms, like a “new better mouse”. … I am not concerned that we will run out of exciting and novel ideas, … in the synthetic biology, in general.

When in 1978 the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Arber, Nathans and Smith for the discovery of restriction enzymes, Wacław Szybalski wrote in an editorial comment in the journal Gene:

The work on restriction nucleases not only permits us easily to construct recombinant DNA molecules and to analyze individual genes, but also has led us into the new era of synthetic biology where not only existing genes are described and analyzed but also new gene arrangements can be constructed and evaluated.

The first applications of synthetic biology occurred in 2000, when two articles in Nature discussed the creation of the now frequently used biological circuit devices of a genetic toggle switch and a biological clock by combining genes within E. coli cells.

Naturally ocurring biological systems are even more complex and difficult to manipulate that anyone imagined ten or twenty years ago. There are myriad technical problems in getting these systems to act the way we want.With synthetic biology, however scientists hope to leapfrog this problems. One of synthetic biologists’ hopes is that by building biological systems from the ground up, they can create biological systems that will function like computers and factories, producing the products we want, when we want and in the amounts we want.

This exciting field is evolving so rapidly that no widely accepted definitions exist. Common to many explanations is the idea of synthetic biology as the application of engineering principles to the fundamental components of biology.

All living organisms contain an instruction set that determines what they look like and what they do. These instructions are encoded in the organisms’s DNA — long and complex strings of molecules embedded in every living cell. This is an organism’s genetic code (or “genome”).

Humans have been altering the genetic code of plants and animals for millennia, by selectively breeding individuals with desirable features. As biotechnologists have learned more about how to read and manipulate this code, they have begun to take genetic information associated with useful features from one organism, and add it into another one. This is the basis of genetic engineering, and has allowed researchers to speed up the process of developing new breeds of plants and animals.

More recent advances however, have enabled scientists to make new sequences of DNA from scratch. By combining these advances with the principles of modern engineering, scientists can now use computers and laboratory chemicals to design organisms that do new things–like produce biofuels or excrete the precursors of medical drugs. To many people, this is the essence of synthetic biology.

Also, we can say that Synthetic biology refers to both:

  • the design and fabrication of biological components and systems that do not already exist in the natural world
  • the re-design and fabrication of existing biological systems.

There are two types of synthetic biologists. The first group uses unnatural molecules to mimic natural molecules with the goal of creating artificial life. The second group uses natural molecules and assembles them into a system that acts unnaturally. In general, the goal is to solve problems that are not easily understood through analysis and observation alone and it is only achieved by the manifestation of new models. So far, synthetic biology has produced diagnostic tools for diseases such as HIV and hepatitis viruses as well as devices from biomolecular parts with interesting functions. The term “synthetic biology” was first used on genetically engineered bacteria that were created with recombinant DNA technology which was synonymous with bioengineering. Later the term “synthetic biology” was used as a mean to redesign life which is an extension of biomimetic chemistry, where organic synthesis is used to generate artificial molecules that mimic natural molecules such as enzymes.

Synthetic biologists are trying to assemble unnatural components to support Darwinian evolution. Recently, the engineering community is seeking to extract components from the biological systems to test and confirm them as building units to be reassembled in a way that can mimic the living nature. In the engineering aspect of synthetic biology, the suitable parts are the ones that can contribute independently to the whole system so that the behavior of an assembly can be predicted. DNA consists of double-stranded anti-parallel strands each having four various nucleotides assembled from bases, sugars and phosphates which are made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen and phosphorus atoms. In the Watson-Crick model, A pairs with T and G pairs with C although occasionally some diversity exists. This simplification doesn’t exist in proteins. With analysis and observation alone, scientists convince themselves that the paradigms are the truth and if the data contradicts the theory, the data normally is discarded as an error, where synthesis encourages scientists to cross into the new land and define new theories. The same synthesis has long been used in chemistry such as chromatography. The combination of chemistry, biology and engineering can therefore create artificial Darwinian systems.

Below we have listed several of the more commonly referenced definitions:

“Synthetic biology is a) the design and construction of new biological parts, devices and systems and b) the re-design of existing natural biological systems for useful purposes.”

Source: Synthetic

“Synthetic biology is an emerging area of research that can broadly be described as the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, organisms or devices, or the redesign of existing natural biological systems.”

Source: UK Royal Society

“Synthetic biology is a maturing scientific discipline that combines science and engineering in order to design and build novel biological functions and systems. This includes the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems (e.g., tumor-seeking microbes for cancer treatment), as well as the re-design of existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes (e.g., photosynthetic systems to produce energy). As envisioned by SynBERC, synthetic biology is perhaps best defined by some of its hallmark characteristics: predictable, off-the-shelf parts and devices with standard connections, robust biological chassis (such as yeast and E. coli) that readily accept those parts and devices, standards for assembling components into increasingly sophisticated and functional systems and open-source availability and development of parts, devices, and chassis.”

Source: SynBERC

“Synthetic biology is the engineering of biology: the synthesis of complex, biologically based (or inspired) systems which display functions that do not exist in nature. This engineering perspective may be applied at all levels of the hierarchy of biological structures – from individual molecules to whole cells, tissues and organisms. In essence, synthetic biology will enable the design of ‘biological systems’ in a rational and systematic way.”

Source: High-level Expert Group European Commission

We know that it was a lot information and it can be a little bit confusin,  for that reason we would like to share with you a small video which can help you to have a  better general idea about this topic.