Social and Ethical Checkpoints for Bottom-Up Synthetic Biology, or Protocells
Bedau, Mark A
Parke, Emily C
Systems and synthetic biology 2009 Dec; 3(1-4): 65-75
An alternative to creating novel organisms through the traditional "top-down" approach to synthetic biology involves creating them from the "bottom up" by assembling them from non-living components; the products of this approach are called "protocells." In this paper we describe how bottom-up and top-down synthetic biology differ, review the current state of protocell research and development, and examine the unique ethical, social, and regulatory issues raised by bottom-up synthetic biology. Protocells have not yet been developed, but many expect this to happen within the next five to ten years. Accordingly, we identify six key checkpoints in protocell development at which particular attention should be given to specific ethical, social and regulatory issues concerning bottom-up synthetic biology, and make ten recommendations for responsible protocell science that are tied to the achievement of these checkpoints.
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