the most remarkable discoveries will almost certainly be in the bio1ogicalsciences.Genetic engineering - which basically involves the direct manipulation of an organism's genetic makeup by the insertion of one or two natural genes from another organism - laid the groundwork for the coming revolution.Teams of researchers- including geneticists,computer engineers,physicists,and chemists- are taking this one step further in the field of synthetic bio1ogy.Their aim is to take on the daunting task of designing and building completely new forms of life from basic components:starting with the production of synthetic DNA;constructing that DNA into genes;and then synthesizing those genes into genomes.Eventua11y they hope to create new organisms in the lab that are unlike any natural living organism.
With an influx of engineers into this new field,it is not surprising
that these synthetic biologists have come to view living organisms as complex computing machines capable of replicating themselves. Engineers have introduced a new vocabulary peppered with terms from the high-tech industry“We can now regard cells as programmable matter,”says Ronald Weiss,a computer engineer at Princeton University who writes genetic software for ce11s.He is sure that scientists will soon“program cell behaviors as easily as we program computers'''Rewriting the genetic code of natural life forms is now considered
possible,and researchers feel they can begin the process of designing and creating new life forms“We are oriented to the intentional design, modeling,construction,debugging,and testing of artificial living systems,”says Tom Knight,an engineering professor at MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.He adds confidently,“The genetic code is3.6 billion years old.It's time for a rewrite'''Though confident of eventual success,researchers still have along
way to go“Chemical synthesis of life has been a standing challenge to synthetic organic chemistry,”says Craig Venter,the revered biotech engineer who led the team that first decoded the human genome.Due to the difficulty of creating entirely new life forms,scientists have had to make compromises.By joining lab-created biological components called biodevices with parts of natural cells,scientists should be able to use the resultant redesigned cells to create useful hybrid organisms. Scientists believe that cells with biodevices could prove to have major functional advantages over naturalce11s.They would not only work cheaply,efficiently,and precisely but would also be ted by safe,clean substances like sugar.Ce11s with biodevices could also be instructed to