Synthetic biology, or syn-bio for short, looks at problems from an alternative perspective to create solutions. For example, when it comes to synthetic biology and environmental remediation, Ben Bostick, a geochemist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, has said, “We think about how we can roll back our footprint, and not so much about how can we make our footprint bigger in a positive way.” Instead of trying to eliminate our carbon footprint, researchers are working on ways to improve the carbon footprint. Bostick goes on to say, “Think of how we can help our environment just by doing things like improving the materials we make using synthetic biology.” And this is but one example of syn-bio and the environment.
Read on to learn more about how syn-bio can help clean up our planet, what syn-bio is, and more about synthetic biology and biomanufacturing.
Synthetic Biology and Environmental Remediation: An Introduction to Synthetic Biology
Essentially, syn-bio is the construction of components that do not exist in nature, such as organisms, functions, cells, and enzymes. Approximately 30 years ago, Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman said of the emerging field of synthetic biology, “What I cannot create I do not understand.”
The exact definition of synthetic biology, as defined by The National Human Genome Research Institute, is as follows: “A field of science that involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities.” This has the potential to touch many different fields, many of which overlap, such as drug discovery, creating new foods, synthetic biology and biofuels, medical and industrial applications, and many more, including synthetic biology and environmental remediation.
Synthetic Biology and Environmental Remediation: How Can Syn-bio Be Used?
Under the expansive umbrella of synthetic biology, environmental remediation can play a significant role. Bioremediation is used when it concerns specific environmental pollutants, whether inorganic or organic. One of the key problems that environmental pollution can pose is that the pollutant covers too large of an area for it to be adequately controlled without expansive cost. Bioremediation can counterattack these wide-scale areas when coupled with the existing ecosystems. Focusing on microbial-based systems, using plants is a major factor in developing these complex solutions.
Bioaugmentation and bioengineering are also used to produce biodiesel from yeast, algae, crop plants, plant-based waste, and other sources. Looking to plants for fuel instead of natural resources is certainly a positive effect of synthetic biology and environmental remediation. These are but two examples of how syn-bio is changing the world and protecting the environment.
Synthetic Biology and Environmental Remediation: Synthetic Biology Tools
Synthetic biology can refer to many subdivisions, but many of the tools needed in a syn-bio laboratory are similar, and there would be a lot of crossover with general microbiology applications. In every laboratory, technicians will need personal protective equipment (PPE), and no lab is complete without simple items, such as a weighing scale, Petri dishes, and glassware. However, other equipment you’d find in a syn-bio lab includes
- Pipettes and micropipettes
- pH meter
- Colony pickers/colony-picking robots
This is not a comprehensive list; you will need specific tools for DNA applications, RNA, protein, CAD tools, and general tools. Laboratory automation has certainly helped syn-bio grow. Every application demands a different workflow, so a complete synthetic biology and environmental remediation lab is set up for multiple applications and discovery.
Interested in synthetic biology and environmental remediation for your laboratory? Contact us for guidance or suggestions on what would work best in your lab.