Synthetic Biology Journal ›› 2023, Vol. 4 ›› Issue (2): 244-262.doi: 10.12211/2096-8280.2022-059

• Invited Review • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Applications of synthetic biology in disease diagnosis and treatment

Xiaohao WU1, Rongdong LIAO2, Feiyun LI1, Zhongtian OUYANG1, Yi RAN1, Weiyuan GONG1, Minghao QU1, Mingjue CHEN1, Lijun LIN2, Guozhi XIAO1   

  1. 1.School of Medicine,Southern University of Science and Technology,Shenzhen 518055,Guangdong,China
    2.Department of Orthopedics,Zhujiang Hospital,Southern Medical University,Guangzhou 510280,Guangdong,China
  • Received:2022-10-31 Revised:2023-02-01 Online:2023-04-30 Published:2023-04-27
  • Contact: Lijun LIN, Guozhi XIAO


Synthetic biology (SB) is an emerging discipline, which utilizes genetic engineering, systems biology, computer science, and other disciplines as tools to design, and even re-synthesize biological systems for specific needs. In the past 20 years, milestone breakthroughs in SB have been achieved and applied in the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases, particularly in the discovery of new drugs. SB not only provides new ideas and technical tools for the early and accurate diagnosis of diseases, but also develops a variety of new approaches for treating diseases, including cell therapy, bacteriotherapy, vaccines, and biomedical materials. Using SB-based methods, we can precisely diagnose diseases at an early stage, specifically engineer cells or bacteria, conduct mechanistic studies and drug screening, and rapidly produce vaccines and biomedical materials. SB with the "design-build-test" cycle greatly facilitates the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Moreover, SB applies engineering principles (modularity, composability, abstraction, and standardization) to redefine biological systems in a more modular and composable way. Through this framework, the basic units of the biological system are fully characterized as standardized motifs (DNA sequences or gene-encoded products), and these motifs are mixed and matched to construct a fully functional genetic apparatus. By utilizing recently developed gene editing tools, such as the clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats (CRISPR/Cas9) technology, SB can integrate programmed devices into a chassis (e.g., bacteria and yeast), create new systems capable of producing target biomolecules or behaviors, and precisely manipulate the genome of cells and individuals to repair genetic defects. SB-based disease diagnosis and treatment will be one of the important development directions in the field of scientific research to completely change the way of diagnosis and clinical treatment of diseases in the future. This article reviews the applications of SB-based technologies in disease diagnosis and treatment, as well as in the production of vaccines and biomedical materials, as well as in new drug development.

Key words: synthetic biology, disease, diagnosis, treatment, drug development

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