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Artificial Life

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message 1: by Héctor (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:02PM) (new)

Héctor Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth. The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming. Mr Venter told the Guardian he thought this landmark would be "a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before". The Guardian can reveal that a team of 20 top scientists assembled by Mr Venter, led by the Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith, has already constructed a synthetic chromosome, a feat of virtuoso bio-engineering never previously achieved. Using lab-made chemicals, they have painstakingly stitched together a chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code. The DNA sequence is based on the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium which the team pared down to the bare essentials needed to support life, removing a fifth of its genetic make-up. The wholly synthetically reconstructed chromosome, which the team have christened Mycoplasma laboratorium, has been watermarked with inks for easy recognition. It is then transplanted into a living bacterial cell and in the final stage of the process it is expected to take control of the cell and in effect become a new life form. The team of scientists has already successfully transplanted the genome of one type of bacterium into the cell of another, effectively changing the cell's species. Mr Venter said he was "100% confident" the same technique would work for the artificially created chromosome. The new life form will depend for its ability to replicate itself and metabolise on the molecular machinery of the cell into which it has been injected, and in that sense it will not be a wholly synthetic life form. However, its DNA will be artificial, and it is the DNA that controls the cell and is credited with being the building block of life.

I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer by Ed Pilkington in:

message 2: by Rui T. (new)

Rui T. Romano Almeida (rtra) | 2 comments This is great, but makes me remember Einstein's quote: "It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."

Like nuclear fusion and the hydrogen bomb, we can be sure that someone, somewhere, will try to develop a controlled virus for killing fellow human primates.

We should all be gazing the stars, instead.

message 3: by Héctor (new)

Héctor Researchers have rebuilt an entire genome from scratch, they report online today in Science. Although the team has yet to demonstrate that this DNA can substitute for the real thing, the work paves the way for customized bacteria that could efficiently produce drugs, biofuels, and other molecules useful to humankind. Ever since his group decoded the genome of Mycoplasma genitalium, a parasitic bacterium that lives in the human urogenital tract, sequencing maverick J. Craig Venter has wanted to remake the bug's genome in the lab. At just under 600,000 bases, M. genitalium sports the smallest known genome for a free-living organism, and Venter hoped that an artificial genome could be modified to turn the bacterium into a living chemical-manufacturing plant. Last year, Venter and his colleagues developed a technique for replacing M. genitalium's genome with another natural genome from a different species (Science, 3 August 2007, p. 632). But synthesizing the M. genitalium genome from the ground up proved challenging, in part because long strands of DNA are quite fragile. Japanese researchers have built a large genome from two existing bacterial chromosomes. But Venter, Hamilton Smith, and their colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, started with short pieces of DNA that a company had manufactured base by base. About 6000 bases long, these pieces represented overlapping bits of the microbe's only chromosome. Some of the pieces also contained "watermarks": a few extra or different bases here and there that distinguish an artificial chromosome from a natural one. To link the pieces, Smith and Venter's team used enzymes that allowed them to join longer and longer DNA strands until they had just four, each representing one-quarter of the genome. Finally, the team inserted these quarters into yeast, which copied and combined them into a complete chromosome. The researchers sequenced their newly constructed genome and, except for the watermarks, it matched M. genitalium's exactly. The work is "a technical tour de force" and a "monumental effort," says yeast biologist Jef Boeke of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. However, to be sure this genome works as it should, the researchers must still put it into a DNA-less M. genitalium, notes Eckard Wimmer, a molecular virologist at Stony Brook University in New York state: "Proof is biological function, and that's missing in this paper."

In Scientists Synthesize a Genome From Scratch by Elizabeth Pennisi

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