From primal scenes to synthetic cells

eLife 8 (2019)
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Abstract

Synthetic cells spark intriguing questions about the nature of life. Projects such as BaSyC (‘Building a Synthetic Cell’) aim to build an entity that mimics how living cells work from basic components. But what kind of entity would a synthetic cell really be? I assess this question from a philosophical perspective, and show how early fictional narratives of artificial life – such as the laboratory scene in Goethe’s Faust – can help us to understand the challenges faced by synthetic biology researchers.

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Hub Zwart
Erasmus University Rotterdam

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