SC462 Elements of Synthetic Biology: Life 2.0 Fall 2014
(Life 2.0)

Life is the most complex phenomena in the universe. Each of us has the fundamental questions all the time: What is the purpose of life? In 1944 Schrodinger wrote a book known as “What is life?” At the dawn of the 20th century due to the advancement in the Human genome project tremendous opportunities are now available to look at the DNA the actual software of Life (now known as Life 1.0). As an engineer a natural question that we ask our-self is: How to create life from the known principle of Life 1.0? What are the basic building blocks of life? The answer to these questions has resulted in the new area at the horizon known as synthetic biology or Life 2.0. Since biology revolves around the central dogma that says that the DNA stores the blue print of life and every time a species want to make a protein (the working molecule of life) it reads the portion of DNA, makes RNA from it, which is then mapped to primary sequence of protein via Genetic code. Hence if we want to make life, we need to build basic building blocks synthetically in the lab. There has been a lot of progress in another direction known as DNA nano-biotechnology where one can build stuff at nano-scale using raw material as DNA. DNA self-assembly, and in particular DNA origami, has come a long way and many interesting things have been created both at 2D and 3D level. Creating synthetic DNA strands that can store data or that can carry small drug molecules are some examples of its applications. Synthetic biology could be very useful for mankind for example one can create organisms for cleaning water, having rain, producing energy, producing oil etc. The applications are endless. Recently a group in Israel has given birth to biological semiconductors.

The term “synthetic biology” was first used in 1910 and 1912 and later on in 1978. At the beginning of 21st century most of the work started by looking at gene expression at different levels. Michael Elowitz did the first work on Repressilator in 2000, which was further extended by many people by modeling and analyzing the gene expressions using different mathematical techniques. In 2000 in a pioneer work Tim Gardner and Jim Collins engineered genetic toggle switch also at the same time researchers reported synthesis of 9.6 kbp (kilo base pair) Hepatitis C virus genome from chemically synthesized 60-80 mers. Further in 2002, researchers reported synthesis of 7741 base poliovirus genome as the second synthetic genome. In 2003 the 5386 bp genome of the bacteriophage Phi X 174 was synthesized. Later in 2006 same team constructed and patented synthetic genome of bacterium Mycoplasma laboratorium. Craig Venter’s group reported first kind of synthetic cell in May 2010 using 40 million US dollars. A most recent discovery has been reported in May 2014 where a semi-synthetic E-coli bacterium has been created using 6 alphabets than usual A, C, G and T.

More in the course…so fasten your seatbelt.

 This course is designed for Btech, Mtech and PhD students. This course is useful for any ICT student (both computer science students and communication students) and to anyone who want to learn about upcoming field of bioengineering.