Researchers had previously developed artificial cells that come very close to the real thing, but last year, scientists at the University of California-San Diego discovered a technique that creates cells capable of sending protein signals to other cells and triggering behavior—mimicking what biological cells do on their own. Artificial cells will soon have practical applications in precision medicine, which is the customization of healthcare. What happens as designer cells and synthetic biology evolves? Could we predict all of the implications? Probably not, because as cells randomly mutate, new generations could function in ways we’ve not yet imagined. Don’t get too excited: We’re not talking about engineering synthetic humans (yet). Programming individual cells to perform useful tasks will still take some time. But the possibilities are many/thought-provoking/exciting. The future of synthetic might, by design, include a kill switch to enable self-destruction after a task has been completed or if we change our minds later on.
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