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Evolutionary tinkering vs. rational engineering in the times of synthetic biology

AutorLorenzo, Víctor de
Fecha de publicación12-ago-2018
CitaciónLife Sciences, Society and Policy. 2018 Aug 12;14(1):18
ResumenAbstract Synthetic biology is not only a contemporary reformulation of the recombinant DNA technologies of the last 30 years, combined with descriptive language imported from electrical and industrial engineering. It is also a new way to interpret living systems and a statement of intent for the use and reprogramming of biological objects for human benefit. In this context, the notion of designer biology is often presented as opposed to natural selection following the powerful rationale formulated by François Jacob on evolution-as-tinkering. The onset of synthetic biology opens a different perspective by leaving aside the question about the evolutionary origin of biological phenomena and focusing instead on the relational logic and the material properties of the corresponding components that make biological system work as they do. Once a functional challenge arises, the solution space for the problem is not homogeneous but it has attractors that can be accessed either through random exploration (as evolution does) or rational design (as engineers do). Although these two paths (i.e. evolution and engineering) are essentially different, they can lead to solutions to specific mechanistic bottlenecks that frequently coincide or converge—and one can easily help to understand and improve the other. Alas, productive discussions on these matters are often contaminated by ideological preconceptions that prevent adoption of the engineering metaphor to understand and ultimately reshape living systems—as ambitioned by synthetic biology. Yet, some possible ways to overcome the impasse are feasible. In parallel to Monod’s evolutionary paradox of teleo-logy (finality/purpose) vs. teleo-nomy (appearance of finality/purpose), a mechanistic paradox could be entertained between techno-logy (rational engineering) vs techno-nomy (appearance of rational engineering), all for the sake of understanding the relational logic that enables live systems to function as physico-chemical entities in time and space. This article thus proposes a radical vision of synthetic biology through the lens of the engineering metaphor.
Aparece en las colecciones: Colección Biomed Central-Chemistry Central-Springer Open
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