Once upon a time there was a branch known as chemistry. It was/is the study of substances obtained from the living organisms. It was a hit-and-trail approach for studying compounds. The field was restricted to mainly organic substances. But, then slowly and steadily the field of ‘Synthetic Chemistry’ developed. Once scientists understood how chemicals are made, they soon started developing their own chemicals. And then, it ushered a revolution in fields as diverse as medicine to food technology.
The same is happening in the area of Biology. We now are closer to understanding life than ever. We today know about DNA, Ribosomes, Genetic code, cell communication methods and many other intricate things. Yes, we are quite far away from understanding how the life really works but at least we have the knowledge sufficient to allow safe tinkering with the life itself.
This field which involves modifying life or even creating life from the scratch is known as Synthetic Biology. Its about making biology work for us in a predictable manner. By constructing new organisms we may even get to know how existing biology works.
Synthetic Biology will open unlimited opportunities. We can (theoretically as of now) program a single cell to grow into a whole tables, chairs, etc. Well, this is just another application of distant (or not too distant) future. But immediate future will see bacteria detecting land mines or fighting pathogens inside our bodies. We may also program cells to regrow our damaged body parts.
Synthetic biology is often compared to electronics engineering. In electronics we have a AND gate and a NOT gate. Combine both and we get a NAND gate. Analogous to this, Synthetic Biology aims to make organisms or parts of organisms as components which can be combined together and achieve desired results without knowing internal mechanisms of these components.
The future is Synthetic Biology. I can clearly see it revolutionizing our world in next 5-10 years. We may then wonder how we lived *without* Synthetic Biology as we know wonder about the world without electronics.