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Diverse Layers of Live
Citation key 146.2016.Boelker
Author Boelker, M., and Engelhard, M., and Budisa, N.
Pages 27-50
Year 2016
ISBN 978-3-319-25143-1
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-25145-5_2
Journal Synthetic Biology Analyzed
Volume 44
Editor Margret Engelhard
Publisher Springer International Publishing
Series Ethics of Science and Technology Assessment
Abstract Prerequisite for any evaluation of synthetic biology is the precise description of its scientific rationale and its biological objects. Here, we develop a layer model that helps to categorize subfields of synthetic biology along their operative procedures and based on the biological status of the organisms generated by synthetic biology. The layer model classifies synthetic and semisynthetic organisms and cells according to their genetic connectivity and to their potential interaction with natural organisms derived by evolution. We use the model to characterize three distinct approaches within synthetic biology: engineering biology, xenobiology and protocell research. While the latter approach generates organisms that hardly could be termed living, xenobiology aims at orthogonal living systems that are disconnected from nature. Synthetic engineering biology could be considered as extreme form of gene technology since all resulting organisms share the universal genetic code with the natural living beings and are based on the same molecular and biochemical principles. Such biological description can be used to determine both the degree of familiarity and the level of uncertainty associated with synthetic organisms and may thus facilitate to judge potential risks of synthetic biology.
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