Monday, 28 January 2008

Scientists Create Synthetic Genome

Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have managed to create the worlds first synthetic genome. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but I am surprised at how quickly things have progressed. The next step is the creation of a fully synthetic life form.

They have achieved this feat using yeast to stitch together strands of DNA belonging to a bacteria known as Mycoplasma genitalium.

The scientists plan to insert the new synthetic DNA into a host cell and make it produce new synthetic cells. They have already successfully demonstrated the transplanting of DNA from one bacteria to another. This is a little bit like changing the operating system in a computer and rebooting it, effectively changing the cells identity.

The aim of the research is to determine the smallest number of genes needed for life. Once they have created a synthetic bacteria, they can begin stripping off genes to determine which are essential for life.

Eventually, the scientists hope to be able to create organisms which can do things such as produce bio-fuels or clean up toxic waste.

This new technology has the potential to be hugely beneficial but also poses big risks. Rest assured there isn't going to be outbreaks of new man-made super viruses any time soon.

J. Craig Venter Institute


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