A Harvard biologist and master inventor explores how new biotechnologies will enable us to bring species back from the dead, unlock vast supplies of renewable energy, and extend human life.
In Regenesis, George Church and science writer Ed Regis explore the possibilities 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. 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.
Exhilarating and scary facts suffuse this book about bioengineering by leading Harvard genetics professor and entrepreneur Church. The book, written with veteran science writer Regis (What Is Life?), may start slowly for general readers, with its talk on chirality (futuresque virus-resistant mirror-image cells that make new proteins). But when Church describes current work building microbes with minimal genes, the book takes off and eventually soars. Microbes are natural factories. With genetic tweaking, they pump out drugs, biofuels, and green chemicals more efficiently than bricks-and-mortar factories. Church's award-winning firm LS9 makes fuel by inserting genes from four other organisms into E. coli ("the world's fastest machines") that double every 20 minutes. Other researchers have rapidly "evolved" microbes that make electricity while cleaning waste. Geneticists can boost drug production a billion-fold, and more than 2,000 genes can predict illness. Genetically tweaked "bugs"" can be more dangerous than bombs. And since technology bans don't work, regulation is key, But "redesigning nature" should not frighten us: it is "an inherent part of life," Church argues in this stimulating book. Illus.