Imagine a future in which human beings have become immune to all viruses, in which bacteria can custom-produce everyday items, like a drinking cup, or generate enough electricity to end oil dependency. Building a house would entail no more work than planting a seed in the ground. These scenarios may seem far-fetched, but pioneering geneticist George Church and science writer Ed Regis show that synthetic biology is bringing us ever closer to making such visions a reality. In Regenesis, Church and Regis explore the possibilities—and perils—of the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology, in which living organisms are selectively altered by modifying substantial portions of their genomes, allows for the creation of entirely new species of organisms. Until now, nature has been the exclusive arbiter of life, death, and evolution; with synthetic biology, we now have the potential to write our own biological future. Indeed, as Church and Regis show, it even enables us to revisit crucial points in the evolution of life and, through synthetic biological techniques, choose different paths from those nature originally took. Such exploits will involve far more than just microbial tinkering. Full-blown genomic engineering will make possible incredible feats, from resurrecting woolly mammoths and other extinct organisms to creating mirror life forms with a molecular structure the opposite of our own. These technologies—far from the out-of-control nightmare depicted in science fiction—have the power to improve human and animal health, increase our intelligence, enhance our memory, and even extend our life span. A breathtaking look at the potential of this world-changing technology, Regenesis is nothing less than a guide to the future of life.
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George Church is Professor of Genetics at the Harvard Medical School and member of the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering. He is the director of the Lipper Center for Computational Genetics, the Harvard DOE Genomes-to-Life Center, the NIH Center for Excellence in Genomic Science, and PersonalGenomes.org. Church was the driving force behind the Polonator G.007, a low-cost automated genomic sequencing machine. He lives in Brookline, Massachusetts. Ed Regis is author of seven science books, most recently "What Is Life?: Investigating the Nature of Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology." He lives in Sabillasville, Maryland.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Prologue: From Bioplastics to H. sapiens
1. -3,800 Myr, Late Hadean
At the Inorganic/Organic Interface
2. -3,500 Myr, Archean
Reading the Most Ancient Texts and the Future of Living Software
3. -500 Myr, Cambrian
The Mirror World and the Explosion of Diversity. How Fast Can Evolution Go and How Diverse Can It Be?
4. -360 Myr, Carboniferous
“The Best Substitute for Petroleum Is Petroleum”
5. -60 Myr, Paleocene
Emergence of Mammalian Immune System. Solving the Health Care Crisis Through Genome Engineering
6. -30,000 yr, Pleistocene Park
Engineering Extinct Genomes
7. -10,000 yr, Neolithic
Industrial Revolutions. The Agricultural Revolution and Synthetic Genomics. The BioFab Manifesto
8. -100 yr, Anthropocene
The Third Industrial Revolution. iGEM
9. -1 yr, Holocene
From Personal Genomes to Immortal Human Components
Epigenetic Epilogue: +1 yr, The End of the Beginning, Transhumanism, and the Panspermia Era
Societal Risks and Countermeasures
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