The ability to construct a functional system from its individual components is foundational to understanding how it works. Synthetic biology is a broad field that draws from principles of engineering and computer science to create new biological systems or parts with novel function. While this has drawn well-deserved acclaim within the biotechnology community, application of synthetic biology methodologies to study biological systems has potential to fundamentally change how biomedical research is conducted by providing researchers with improved experimental control. While the concepts behind synthetic biology are not new, we present evidence supporting why the current research environment is conducive for integration of synthetic biology approaches within biomedical research. In this perspective we explore the idea of synthetic biology as a discovery science research tool and provide examples of both top-down and bottom-up approaches that have already been used to answer important physiology questions at both the organismal and molecular level.