Frontiers Research Topic

Prof. Bernhard Schuster from Institut for Synthetic Bioarchitectures is among the most important topic editors and with 44 publications main contributor to the development and understanding of this fundamental research area.

Advances in nanotechnology have lead to a new level of inspiration which subsequently drives the successful creation of biomimetic platforms. Biomimicry aims to manufacture part or wholly synthetic cells that resemble natural ones using simple building blocks, and herein, nature can be considered as a source of inspiration and as a source of raw materials to design and develop bioarchitectures. Copying nature enables modification of available biological systems or creation of new systems to perform functions that do not naturally exist. Thus, biomimetic applications can be used to solve various bio-related issues in various fields including life sciences, health and medicine, and environmental protection. Society is already receiving the benefits and drawbacks of synthetically-derived bioproducts.

The continuous progress in biomimicry and synthetic biology research poses a dual-use dilemma. Both share the biosciences and bioengineering principles to generate powerful tunable systems. Manipulating the design and structure of biological models allows the generation of more simple or more complex models, but is a double-edged sword with potential positive or negative effects. For example, the ability to construct cell-like structure that mimic viruses, bacteria or mammalian features has the chance to be exploited in both good and bad ways. One positive application of synthetic biology is to create synthetic viruses and bacteria, which could be used to improve our understanding of their nature, and subsequently enhance the development of effective vaccines and antibiotics. In contrast to this, a negative application is that re-assembly of DNA molecules can increase the risk of a life-threatening infection. Synthetic biology and biomimicry can construct pathogenic microorganisms de novo and easily manipulate their threatening features. Further, it offers an easy access to develop toxins and biological agents with severe outcomes.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an ongoing battle against viral infectious threats to develop effective vaccines and therapeutic agents, design sensitive sensors, and exploit molecular biology research to probe the origin of the virus. Hence, the aim of the current research topic is to cover promising and novel research trends in synthetic biology to address issues related to facing infectious threats.

The Dual-Use Dilemma for Biomimicry: