21 May 2010

'artificial' life

Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, recently published findings of the first known case of creating 'synthetic' life. Abstract - Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1190719
Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome
Daniel G. Gibson,1
John I. Glass,1 Carole Lartigue,1 Vladimir N. Noskov,1 Ray-Yuan Chuang,1 Mikkel A. Algire,1 Gwynedd A. Benders,2 Michael G. Montague,1 Li Ma,1 Monzia M. Moodie,1 Chuck Merryman,1 Sanjay Vashee,1 Radha Krishnakumar,1 Nacyra Assad-Garcia,1 Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch,1 Evgeniya A. Denisova,1 Lei Young,1 Zhi-Qing Qi,1 Thomas H. Segall-Shapiro,1 Christopher H. Calvey,1 Prashanth P. Parmar,1 Clyde A. Hutchison, III,2 Hamilton O. Smith,2 J. Craig Venter1,2,*

We report the design, synthesis, and assembly of the 1.08-Mbp Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 genome starting from digitized genome sequence information and its transplantation into a Mycoplasma capricolum recipient cell to create new Mycoplasma mycoides cells that are controlled only by the synthetic chromosome. The only DNA in the cells is the designed synthetic DNA sequence, including "watermark" sequences and other designed gene deletions and polymorphisms, and mutations acquired during the building process. The new cells have expected phenotypic properties and are capable of continuous self-replication.

1 The J. Craig Venter Institute, 9704 Medical Center Drive, Rockville, MD 20850, USA.
2 The J. Craig Venter Institute, 10355 Science Center Drive, San Diego, CA 92121, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: jcventer@jcvi.org
Elizabeth Pennisi's article in Science is also worth a read
For 15 years, J. Craig Venter has chased a dream: to build a genome from scratch and use it to make synthetic life. Now, he and his team at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, California, say they have realized that dream. In this week's Science Express (www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/science.1190719), they describe the stepwise creation of a bacterial chromosome and the successful transfer of it into a bacterium, where it replaced the native DNA. Powered by the synthetic genome, that microbial cell began replicating and making a new set of proteins.

This is "a defining moment in the history of biology and biotechnology," says Mark Bedau, a philosopher at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and editor of the scientific journal Artificial Life. "It represents an important technical milestone in the new field of synthetic genomics," says yeast biologist Jef Boeke of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.

The synthetic genome created by Venter's team is almost identical to that of a natural bacterium. It was achieved at great expense, an estimated $40 million, and effort, 20 people working for more than a decade. Despite this success, creating heavily customized genomes, such as ones that make fuels or pharmaceuticals, and getting them to "boot" up the same way in a cell is not yet a reality. "There are great challenges ahead before genetic engineers can mix, match, and fully design an organism's genome from scratch," notes Paul Keim, a molecular geneticist at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Read more.

It should be noted that what was 'created' wasn't a new life form, but a constructed copy.

Just some more work and it would a great script for a science fiction film. Hang on, that would be Species, in which SETI transmissions provide information about an alien DNA structure and instructions on how to splice it with a human's, producing a hybrid.

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