Everyone has heard of genetic engineering: we eat engineered foods, we take drugs made in engineered bacteria and yeast, and someday soon may drive our cars on fuel produced by engineered microorganisms. "Regenesis" is the story of where these technologies came from, and where theyOCOre going, told by the man leading the revolution: Harvard genetics professor George Church. While traditional genetic engineering introduces changes to an organism a few genes at a time, genomic engineering introduces changes on a wholesale basis, allowing for unprecedented feats of synthetic biological engineering. (The technique, called MAGE, was invented by the author. ) In "Regenesis," Church argues for the great potential of this technology, not only to make existing organisms more useful, but for inventing wholly new speciesOCobacterial, animal, and human. It promises to be a strange future, with biohackers building organisms in their garages, companies manufacturing toolkits of DNA parts for creating living machines, and much else. Researchers have already managed to get microbes to produce jet fuel, gasoline, and electricity. And even vaccines, drugs, and industrial chemicals (OC green chemistryOCO). They can reprogram bacteria to metabolize greenhouse gases and convert them into harmless, even beneficial substances. Still, incredible as they might seem, these exploits are minor advances compared to the catalog of wonders that full-blown genomic engineering will make possible, from resurrecting woolly mammoths and other extinct organisms to creating mirror life forms immune to disease. The rise of synthetic biology marks a fundamental transformation in the relationship between biology and nature. When humans can control the genetic makeup of organisms to the extent foreseen by synthetic biologists, nature will no longer be the exclusive arbiter of life, death, and evolution. "Regenesis" reveals what this not so far off future will look like.
Imagine a future in which human beings have become immune to all viruses, in which bacteria can custom-produce everyday items, like a drinking cup, or generate enough electricity to end oil dependency. Building a house would entail no more work than planting a seed in the ground. These scenarios may seem far-fetched, but pioneering geneticist George Church and science writer Ed Regis show that synthetic biology is bringing us ever closer to making such visions a reality. InRegenesis, Church and Regis explorethe possibilities--and perils--of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology, in which living organisms are selectively altered by modifying substantial portions of their genomes, allows for the creation of entirely new species of organisms. Until now, nature has been the exclusive arbiter of life, death, and evolution; with synthetic biology, we now have the potential to write our own biological future. Indeed, as Church and Regis show, iteven enables us to revisit crucial points in the evolution of life and, through synthetic biological techniques, choose different paths from those nature originally took. Such exploits will involve far more than just microbial tinkering. Full-blown genomic engineering will make possible incredible feats, from resurrecting woolly mammoths and other extinct organisms to creating mirror life forms with a molecular structure the opposite of our own. These technologies--far from the out-of-control nightmare depicted in science fiction--have the power to improve human and animal health, increase our intelligence, enhance our memory, and even extend our life span. A breathtaking look at the potential of this world-changing technology,Regenesisis nothing less than a guide to the future of life.
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