Molecular biology has revealed many of the fundamental processes underlying the mechanisms of life. This has led to many hypotheses to explain how the complexity of life operates. If these hypotheses are valid we should be able to recreate individual signaling and biosynthetic pathways in isolation. In practice, the inter-dependency of biological processes prevents all but the most fundamental biochemical processes being successfully recapitulated in vitro
is an umbrella term that refers to the application of engineering principles to molecular biology. Using these principles, biologists aim to better understand how molecular systems interact and respond to changes in the environment. Synthetic biology uses the latest tools developed in molecular biology to scale up from the induction of single genes to entire pathways.
At Essex we're developing synthetic light switches to allow genes to be activated by specific wavelengths of light. We're using iGEM BioBricks
to construct signaling pathways that we then transform into E. coli
for characterization. As an introduction for our students, we've been able to generate bacterial strains in multiple colours that respond to red, blue or green light.