Synthetic biology combines various disciplines, such as microbiology, chemistry, engineering, nanotechnology, and computer sciences. Researchers from these fields work closely together to create biological systems, artificial or not, with defined properties not found under natural circumstances.
A cell can be seen as a machine whose properties are defined by the genetic information encoded in its DNA. It is further regulated by specific control systems switching certain metabolic processes on and off. Synthetic biologists use these factors to change the inner workings of cells. Foreign genes with new properties can be inserted and enable performance of functions normally not within the recipient organism's limits. Additionally, the control mechanisms of existing metabolic pathways can be manipulated in a way that inhibits side reactions and enhances the desired outcome. This bioengineering approach can be compared to traffic routing. The road that leads to the favored product is dopen and reinforced while possible “departure routes” are being blocked.
But unlike genetic engineering, which focuses on the integration of new genes into heterologous organisms, synthetic biology further aims to create completely artificial biological systems that are not as prone to genetic mutations.