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Synthetic Biology II – Single Cells within the Focus of Synthetic Biology

Many biological events are influenced by stochastic processes which are for example determined by small copy numbers or local differences in the concentration of biomolecules. These processes likely cause more variability between individual cells within a tissue (e.g. cancerous tissue) or within a bacterial population than assumed so far. Following this hypothesis, the study of the single cell becomes more and more the focus of attention worldwide in order to better understand biological processes and to decipher causes for the development of diseases. In this regard, the dynamics of gene expression as well as the composition and complex formation of proteins in single cells are of particular interest. The analysis of single cells is experimentally very challenging and requires new quantitative methods as well as tools for analysis in combination with simulations. Synthetic Biology, which is focused on the design and redesign of functional units in biological and biochemical macro- and microsystems, can provide methods and approaches for solving these new problems.

In the context of the CAS research focus "Single cells within the focus of Synthetic Biology", new design principles and tools of Synthetic Biology will be discussed, such as novel building blocks (designer proteins, XDNA), novel biosensors as well as modified metabolic pathways. Finally, the application of Synthetic Biology in medicine will be critically examined. For example, one could imagine the use of new sensors to differentiate between healthy and abnormal cells. The necessary interdisciplinary cooperation between biologists, molecular geneticists, physicists, chemists and physicians will be initiated and deepened within this CAS research focus. In cooperation with philosophers, it will additionally address the balance between risks and chances of Synthetic Biology in the study of single cells.

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