CHE.496/2008/Schedule/Engineering biology

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CHE.496: Biological Systems Design Seminar

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Engineering biology

  • Discussion leader: Brandon


  • A partnership between biology and engineering link

-Purpose- Systems and synthetic biology are completely interrelated, not mutually exclusive.

In this article the author gives a definitive definition of synthetic biology as a “term to describe efforts to design biological systems to perform a given function, verify that they will have that function before one builds them” and systems biology as “to mean that in order to understand the behavior of a biological ensemble, one needs to study the whole, rather than its isolated parts”. However, while this author argues much about the terminology, he speaks about how these seemingly separate disciplines are in fact completely interrelated. Systems biology is absolutely necessary for the development of true synthetic biology as it is desirable to know the outcome of your system in order to intelligently design your system. Synthetic biology is necessary for systems biology because the modification of systems might respond in a way differently than previously predicted.


  • Fast, cheap and somewhat in control link

-Purpose- Certain aspects of dealing with biological organisms must be controlled in order for the principles of engineering- hierarchy, abstraction, and design- to be applied for a synthetic biology approach.

In this article, Arkin mentions the traditional problems of biological engineering such as the lack of biotechnological infrastructure (which we’ve already read about), but he also cites the lack of predictability of biological systems. Arkin attributes this to both our lack of focus on biological modeling and also to biology’s inherent variability. There is also the problem of cross-talk created by transplanting mechanisms that did not coevolve in the same system. There is also the problem of modeling chemical reactions in cells where even the addition of a small amount of noise, creates results that do not conform to the deterministic equation. The author then closes with a statement about how synthetic biology, unlike other engineering disciplines, has not yet achieved a point where there are set methods for finding a solution to a particular challenge.

Brandon S. Freshcorn--Brandon S. Freshcorn 09:59, 20 February 2008 (EST)
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