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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Synthia: DNA created from scratch transfered to bacteria, whole new species created

Scientists create artificial life in laboratory
from the
by Mark Henderson

Scientists have created synthetic life in the laboratory, in a feat of ingenuity that pushes the boundaries of humankind's ability to manipulate the natural world. Craig Venter, the biologist who led the effort to map the human genome, said today that the first cell controlled entirely by man-made genetic instructions had been produced.

The synthetic bacterium, nicknamed Synthia, has been hailed as a step-change in biological engineering, allowing the creation of designer organisms with specialised functions that could never have evolved in nature. The team at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, is investigating how the technology could yield microbes that make vaccines, and algae that turn carbon dioxide into green hydrocarbon biofuels.

The achievement has, however, stirred concerns about ethics. Critics called for tighter regulation, citing the potential for bioterror or “bioerror” that could endanger health or the environment. Dr Venter, who has been working on synthetic life for a decade, told The Times: “It is our final triumph. This is the first synthetic cell. It’s the first time we have started with information in a computer, used four bottles of chemicals to write up a million letters of DNA software, and actually got it to boot up in a living organism. “Though this is a baby step, it enables a change in philosophy, a change in thinking, a change in the tools we have.
"This cell we’ve made is not a miracle cell that’s useful for anything, it is a proof of concept. But the proof of concept was key, otherwise it is just speculation and science fiction. This takes us across that border, into a new world.”

Julian Savulescu, professor of practical ethics at the University of Oxford, said: “Venter is creaking open the most profound door in humanity’s history, potentially peeking into its destiny. "He is going towards the role of a god: creating artificial life that could never have existed naturally. The potential is in the far future, but real and significant. But the risks are also unparalleled.”

In the research, published in the journal Science, Dr Venter's team made a synthetic copy of the genome of a bacterium, Mycoplasma mycoides. Several inert DNA “watermarks” were added, including the researchers’ names in code, to distinguish the synthetic genome from the natural version. The man-made genome was then transplanted into a related bacterium, Mycoplasma capricolum. This “rebooted” the cell so that it was controlled by the synthetic genome, transforming it into another species. The cell has since divided more than a billion times.

Paul Freemont, of the Centre for Synthetic Biology at Imperial College London, described the achievement as a “step-change advance”. He said: “The applications of this enabling technology are enormous.” Others, however, are unconvinced. Ben Davis, who works on synthetic biology at the University of Oxford, said: “I think we are quite a long way away from artificial life.” David King, of the pressure group Human Genetics Alert, described the experiment as “simply a very large-scale piece of chemistry and genetic engineering”, and called for a moratorium on similar research. Pat Mooney, of the ETC Group, which campaigns against biotechnology, said: “This is a Pandora’s box moment. We’ll all have to deal with the fallout from this alarming experiment.”

1 comment:

Dov Henis said...

Synthetic Biology?
Proof Of Something Else,Definitely Not Synthetic Cell.
So What Else is New?

DNA Genomes Are Cells' RNA's Functional Organs

I admit having read only the first four paras. Made me feel so empathically embarrassed. Could'nt read further...

A. From "Genome from a bottle"
Synthetic DNA makes cells switch species

- An unprecedented wholesale genome swap. Stitched and transferred the entire M. mycoides
bacteria genome into emptied-from-genome M. capricolum cell. This genome switch caused the M. capricolum cell to switch species. The newly converted cell was nearly identical to the natural M. mycoides.

- "Proof of concept experiment, take the sequence out of a computer, build it and boot it up to make a synthetic cell”.

B. From "03.2010 Updated Life Manifest"

The RNA genes are life's prime strata organisms. They evolved their DNA-images as their organ, their continuously updated operational worklogs primal Earth's organisms libraries, and genomed them, i.e. nucleusized them, and celled them with their other organ, the outer cell membrane.

It is the RNA genes and their DNA replicas, life's prime strata organisms, that evolve, and the evolution of genomes, the 2nd stratum of life, and of the 3rd life stratum cellular organisms, is an interenhancing consequence of their genes' evolution.

Dov Henis
(Comments From The 22nd Century)
03.2010 Updated Life Manifest
Cosmic Evolution Simplified
EOTOE.Embarrassingly obvious expanding horizons beyond Darwin And Einstein.