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FEBS Lett. 2012 Jul 16;586(15):2122-8. doi: 10.1016/j.febslet.2012.04.050. Epub 2012 May 10.

Engineering and control of biological systems: A new way to tackle complex diseases.

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Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine, Via P. Castellino 111, 80131 Naples, Italy.


The ongoing merge between engineering and biology has contributed to the emerging field of synthetic biology. The defining features of this new discipline are abstraction and standardisation of biological parts, decoupling between parts to prevent undesired cross-talking, and the application of quantitative modelling of synthetic genetic circuits in order to guide their design. Most of the efforts in the field of synthetic biology in the last decade have been devoted to the design and development of functional gene circuits in prokaryotes and unicellular eukaryotes. Researchers have used synthetic biology not only to engineer new functions in the cell, but also to build simpler models of endogenous gene regulatory networks to gain knowledge of the "rules" governing their wiring diagram. However, the need for innovative approaches to study and modify complex signalling and regulatory networks in mammalian cells and multicellular organisms has prompted advances of synthetic biology also in these species, thus contributing to develop innovative ways to tackle human diseases. In this work, we will review the latest progress in synthetic biology and the most significant developments achieved so far, both in unicellular and multicellular organisms, with emphasis on human health.

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