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Synthetic systems biology, ten years on

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Synthetic biology goes beyond classic genetic engineering as it attempts to engineer living systems to perform new functions not found in nature. Ten years ago, Nature published a pair of seminal papers that stimulated ‘systems biology’ thinking in the field. The journal has now collected these papers, together with other, more recently published articles and an accompanying free podcast and video, as a web focus on ‘Synthetic systems biology’.

The collection includes a News Feature ‘Bioengineering: Five hard truths for synthetic biology’ (Nature 463, 288–290; 21 January 2010), which is free to access online. In this News Feature, Nature asks whether engineering approaches can tame the complexity of living systems by exploring five challenges for the field and how they might be resolved.

Also in the focus is a free online Editorial from Nature, ‘Ten years of synergy’ (Nature 463, 269-270; 21 January 2010), which suggests that contributions to and from basic science are the part of synthetic biology that most deserves celebration. In an accompanying podcast, one of Nature’s biology editors, Tanguy Chouard, discusses toggle switches, flashing colonies of bacteria and the challenges ahead for synthetic biology. And you can see a Nature video of synchronizing bacteria.

For these and other Nature articles on synthetic biology (commissioned editorials and original research papers), please visit the web focus.

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