Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Macron's airforce uniform draws Tom Cruise comparisons

Read more

THE DEBATE

Polish democracy under threat: EU warns Warsaw over judicial independence

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

Game of Thrones and TV's golden age

Read more

ENCORE!

The best of the summer's exhibitions in Paris

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Game of Thrones returns: Mega fans bask in themed pop-up bar

Read more

FOCUS

Unwanted children: 3,800 babies abandoned in South Africa every year

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'Looking for Lenin': The search for fallen Soviet statues in Ukraine

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

From footballer to inmate: Will OJ Simpson be released?

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Time to taper? ECB governing council meets in Frankfurt

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

We meet the people behind fascinating environmental, health and technological innovations in a bid for sustainable solutions to our changing world. Saturday at 7.20 pm. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

Latest update : 2013-10-02

Synthetic biology: Creating life from scratch

A pioneering science is offering researchers the possibility to design and engineer new forms of life on a made-to-order basis. This week we head to the United Kingdom to explore the boundless potential of synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology can be likened to a game of Lego with a biological twist, where scientists build organisms from scratch to tackle challenges in the domains of energy, health or technology. Some have described the field as "genetic engineering on steroids".

If we consider that genetic modification involves cutting a DNA sequence from an organism and splicing it into another, then synthetic biology goes much further.

This new way of doing science means treating DNA sequences as spare parts which can be arranged in millions of different ways, going well beyond the genes found in nature. This artificial DNA can be used to produce everything from medicine to fuels to textiles. The only limit is our imagination.

But critics are questioning whether mankind is prepared for the consequences of this unparalleled control over nature. 

By Mairead DUNDAS , Marina BERTSCH , Juliette LACHARNAY , Emilie COCHAUD

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-06-20 Antarctica

Who benefits when the ice caps melt?

The Arctic and Antarctica are warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with the amount of sea ice lost equal to the size of Mexico (when we compare what we have today to...

Read more

2017-06-09 Mars

Could Mars be our Planet B?

As humans continue to ravage Earth, is it time to consider other planets as an alternative home? NASA and a host of private organisations - including Elon Musk's SpaceX - are in...

Read more

2017-05-26 Donald Trump

Trump has already quit the Paris climate deal - just not publicly

It doesn't really matter whether US President Donald Trump pulls his country out of the world's first binding agreement on climate change. All of his actions since taking office...

Read more

2017-05-09 France

Imagining a world without pesticides

After being used for decades by modern intensive agriculture, pesticides are now showing their limits. In southern Africa, a kind of pesticide-resistant caterpillar is destroying...

Read more

2017-04-24 tourism

How green is ecotourism?

In the past few decades, ecotourism has become increasingly popular but still represents only a fraction of the tourist industry: just 5%, according to the UN. For many nature...

Read more