TL;DR: This Timeline article charts the technological and cultural lifetime of synthetic biology, with an emphasis on key breakthroughs and future challenges.
Abstract: The ability to rationally engineer microorganisms has been a long-envisioned goal dating back more than a half-century. With the genomics revolution and rise of systems biology in the 1990s came the development of a rigorous engineering discipline to create, control and programme cellular behaviour. The resulting field, known as synthetic biology, has undergone dramatic growth throughout the past decade and is poised to transform biotechnology and medicine. This Timeline article charts the technological and cultural lifetime of synthetic biology, with an emphasis on key breakthroughs and future challenges.
TL;DR: It is suggested that all these knowledge-making distinctions in synthetic biology raise fundamental questions about the nature of biological investigation and its relationship to the construction of biological components and systems.
Abstract: Synthetic biology is an increasingly high-profile area of research that can be understood as encompassing three broad approaches towards the synthesis of living systems: DNA-based device construction, genome-driven cell engineering and protocell creation. Each approach is characterized by different aims, methods and constructs, in addition to a range of positions on intellectual property and regulatory regimes. We identify subtle but important differences between the schools in relation to their treatments of genetic determinism, cellular context and complexity. These distinctions tie into two broader issues that define synthetic biology: the relationships between biology and engineering, and between synthesis and analysis. These themes also illuminate synthetic biology's connections to genetic and other forms of biological engineering, as well as to systems biology. We suggest that all these knowledge-making distinctions in synthetic biology raise fundamental questions about the nature of biological investigation and its relationship to the construction of biological components and systems. BioEssays 30:57–65, 2008. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
TL;DR: It is concluded that scientists, philosophers, and ethicists should discard the project of defining life, because empirical evidence shows that life cannot be defined.
Abstract: In several disciplines within science—evolutionary biology, molecular biology, astrobiology, synthetic biology, artificial life—and outside science—primarily ethics—efforts to define life have recently multiplied. However, no consensus has emerged. In this article, I argue that this is no accident. I propose a dilemma showing that the project of defining life is either impossible or pointless. The notion of life at stake in this project is either the folk concept of life or a scientific concept. In the former case, empirical evidence shows that life cannot be defined. In the latter case, I argue that, although defining life may be possible, it is pointless. I conclude that scientists, philosophers, and ethicists should discard the project of defining life.
01 May 2008
TL;DR: A systematic literature review of psychiatric Intensive Care Units to assess the current state of knowledge about such services found evidence of the efficacy of PICU care is very poor.
Abstract: Background: Psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) have been part of most inpatient psychiatric services for some time, however information about their functioning and outcome has not previously been collated Aim: To conduct a systematic literature review to assess the current state of knowledge about such services Method: A search of electronic databases was undertaken, followed by obtaining additional references from items obtained Results: Over 50 papers in English containing some empirical data were identified Most studies were retrospective Typical PICU patients are: male; younger; single; unemployed; suffering from schizophrenia or mania; from a black Caribbean or African background; legally detained; with a forensic history The most common reason for admission is for aggression management, and most patients stay a week or less Evidence of the efficacy of PICU care is very poor Conclusions: Most research so far has been small scale, and more substantial work using better methodologies is clearly required