Synthetic biology is a new area of research, defined as combining science and engineering concepts to the generation of novel biological entities, e.g., enzymes, genetic circuits or cells, and may include evolving new genomes or even new forms of life. Earlier this month, the Scientist published an interview with Dr. Amy Gutmann, the Chair of the Presidential Ethics Commission that US. President Obama established five months ago. The Commission examined the safety and ethical concerns that are raised about synthetic biology and specifically examined the experiment in which a group of scientists in Maryland inserted a synthetic genome into a bacterium. When asked about the risks of the procedures, Dr. Gutman explained that these risks, while they do not currently exist, include the production of a new organism and its unknown reactions and interactions with the environment. The Commission reached a middle-ground consensus between “let science rip” and the other extreme that would disable science from moving forward.
I find this new science very interesting and I may also add I find it frightening as well. The benefits of such science could include, for example, better treatments and vaccines, and more environment friendly biofuels, which are essential needs for the human race. But, the ethical concerns and for some, religious concerns, cannot be overseen. Please read the article in the Scientist and let us know what you think. We need to be proactive and keep ethics ahead of science!