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Synthetic Organisms
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Sub-Field:

2.2.4Synthetic Organisms

Synthetic organisms will help advance genome editing for human applications in two crucial ways: by creating novel vehicles to deliver the editing tools to the body, and by creating experimental organisms that provide a better proxy for human testing.

Delivery is vital: before CRISPR genome editing materials can execute a therapeutic change, they must reach their destination. Today, viral delivery is the delivery of choice in vivo. Viruses have evolved many strategies to inject their material into a host cell, and these can be harnessed to deliver the editing cargo. Two problems with viruses are that they may be too small for the cargo, and that they may trigger the body’s immune system. Synthetic organisms like viruses engineered to be bigger and/or evade immune response will help. More speculatively, engineered somatic cells could be delivery vehicles. Allogeneic cell therapy can create “universal cells” to carry synthetic biology circuits; they are less prone to rejection, and can be used to make any tissue in any part of the body.

Experimental organisms will be accelerated by the recent rapid advances in stem cell engineering, synthetic embryos, organoids (artificial and simplified versions of an organ), and tissue engineering. These techniques can provide human physiological models to study and predict the functionalities of genome editors outside the human body and before clinical applications. This is the approach prioritised by the NIH Common Fund’s Somatic Cell Genome Editing and other funding agencies.

Future Horizons:

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5-yearhorizon

Synthetic biology circuits go in vivo

Synthetic biology circuits, now in mammalian cell cultures, find applications in vivo and for enhanced control of genome editors for gene therapies.

10-yearhorizon

Chimeras, synthetic viruses and other models become mainstream

Chimeras generated by injecting human stem-cells into animal embryos grow organs for xenotransplantation or grow human-like brain structures to study gene edits. Scientists learn to make better synthetic viruses and develop genome editors that knock out genes in animal organs to supply the increasing need for organ donation without the risk of rejection.

25-yearhorizon

Boundaries between synthetic and natural tissues blur

Engineered cells and tissues serve as novel delivery systems. Genetically modified viruses, synthetic viruses, and large genetic circuits are widely deployed for “gene surgery” on otherwise healthy people, directly linking genetic circuits to genome editors. We see the first demonstration in humans of universal cells carrying gene circuitry.

Synthetic Organisms - Anticipation Scores

How the experts see this field in terms of the expected time to maturity, transformational effect across science and industries, current state of awareness among stakeholders and its possible impact on people, society and the planet. See methodology for more information.

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