Ethics of synthetic biology

Jeremy Eades @ 04-03-2008

There was a great segment on NPR’s Science Friday last, well, Friday.  It dealt with the potential pitfalls of synthetic biology – a brand new field most recently brought into the headlines by Craig Venter’s creation of synthetic bacterial DNA.  The topics ranged widely, from cheap sci-fi thriller plot of rogue scientist creates killer virus in lab, to religious throwbacks to Mary Shelley invoking man-plays-God ideas, with several in between.  One of the guests was a bioengineer, the other was an anthropologist, which gave a good mix of insight into the various problems.  And interesting mention was of a machine that could basically print out DNA from a stored library of DNA structures.  A crude form already exists, which prompted me to think of a question that wasn’t tussled with – if we can print up DNA in the future like we print up documents now, will DNA testing go the way of photoshopped graphics, where people could be framed for crimes by printing and planting DNA evidence at crime scenes?

(image from flickr user chekabuje)

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