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Synthetic Life!

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Mycoplasma Mycoides cells with artificial DNA

Mycoplasma Mycoides cells with artificial DNA

I know I’m a day late with the story, but as a recompensation I will give you a nice vid from the press conference where J. Craig Venter recaps the whole process and talks about some of the potentials and implications.
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about: Craig Venters Company Synthetic Genomics has finally succeeded in ‘booting up’ an entirely synthetic genome within a living cell. As he puts it, they “started with four bottles of chemicals” – then they put together a DNA-molecule the size of 1.100.000 base pairs, which is a huge achievement in and of itself. Todays machines aren’t able to create pieces that large, so they created lots and lots of tiny pieces and spliced them together. It’s a complicated process becuase it does not tolerate even the tiniest of errors. But they did it. They then managed to implant the artificial DNA in a bacterial cell (the process of wich is another breakthrough), and now that cell is alive. It’s the first cell that has a computer for a parent. I’ll leave it at that and hand the mic over to the man himself.

If that was too technical, you might prefer this older talk from February 2008, where he talks more about the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of the project than the technical details of the ‘how’. It is also immensely interesting because he goes a little deeper into the possible applications and talks about his aspirations for the technology, but keep in mind that it’s from two years ago, so some of the content is out of date. Namely that they got rid of the problems he mentions.

NOTE: If you’re not familiar with TED talks, be carefull with your speaker volume. TED is notorious for starting the vids with a jingle that are twice the volume of the rest of the talk.

It isn’t yet a completely synthetic organism – but it’s a huge milestone on the way there.
For more information, check out the coverage of PZ Myers and Carl Zimmer

To read the Paper, click here. (pdf)
For a questions-and-answers-session with one of the Authors, click here.


Written by Phil

May 21, 2010 at 20:02

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