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May 21, 2010, 2:32 pm
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Scientists Create First 'Synthetic' Cells
In a development that seems likely to stir a firestorm of controversy,
researchers said Thursday that they have used genes made in the lab to
create a synthetic species of bacteria.
"We're here to announce the first synthetic cell," said J. Craig Venter,
head of the self-named J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., and
leader of one of the teams that decoded the human genome.
He told reporters that the new species -- dubbed Mycoplasma mycoides
JCVI-syn1.0 -- is similar to one found in nature, except that the
chromosome that controls each cell was created from scratch. The research
is reported in the May 20 issue of the journal Science.
The new species, Venter said, started with researchers digitizing the
genetic code for the new species on computers, then assembling the
nucleotides using "four bottles of chemicals" into sections of DNA. The DNA
sections were assembled in yeast cells to form a synthetic chromosome,
which was then transferred to a related species of bacteria, M. capricolum.
Late in March, the researchers told reporters, the modified cells began
replicating and formed a "blue colony" of the new species.
"This is the first self-replicating species that we've had on the planet
whose parent is a computer," Venter said.
Venter went on to mention, "The process, and it's future development, are
of course dependant on our available computing power to migrate the
technology toward developing cells specifically targeted to our needs. We
could speed up the process, and even radically expand our horizons,
however, we've been unable to sway our progammers away from just using
notepad as the main programming tool."
Better living through chemistry.
- Beauregard T. Shagnasty
May 21, 2010, 2:57 pm
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