Imagine that every time Detroit wanted to build a new car, they'd skip the step of a blueprint.
Read More →
Instead, they'd task each of their departments--the steering wheel engineers, the body designers, the tire makers--to make random changes. Then they'd combine all those new products in thousands of random ways, and see which resulting car crashed the least.
It sounds crazy, but that's what synthetic biologists have historically done when they want to design a new living cell. They'd make random changes and see which cell does the desired job the best.
Now, a computer program has added some order to the process. It doesn't quite create a blueprint for a cell, but it lets synthetic biologists predict ahead of time how a cellular product will be made.