157 | Elizabeth Strychalski on Synthetic Cells and the Rules of Biology

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Natural selection has done a pretty good job at creating a wide variety of living species, but we humans can’t help but wonder whether we could do better. Using existing genomes as a starting point, biologists are getting increasingly skilled at designing organisms of our own imagination. But to do that, we need a better understanding of what different genes in our DNA actually do. Elizabeth Strychalski and collaborators recently announced the construction of a synthetic microbial organism that self-reproduces just like a normal unicellular creature. This work will help us understand the roles of genes in reproduction, one step on the road to making DNA molecules and artificial cells that will perform a variety of medical and biological tasks.

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Elizabeth Strychalski received her Ph.D. in physics from Cornell University. She is the founder and current leader of the Cellular Engineering Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. She serves on the steering group for the Build-A-Cell collaboration.

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