Tuesday, May 25, 2010 First
synthetic life form - J. Craig Venter Institute sets
ROCKVILLE, MD and San Diego, CA, USA -- Using
sequences of genetic code created on a computer, Genetics
pioneer J. Craig Venter and his team from the J.
Craig Venter Institute assembled a complete DNA of a bacterium,
then inserted it in another bacterium and initiated synthesis,
or in Venter's words "booted up" the cell , setting the world record for the First
synthetic life form.
Vietnam War veteran Venter, 63, spent
15 years working on the project which has been christened
Synthia and claims it could transform medicine and fuel production.
The Maryland-based biologist is already working with oil giant
ExxonMobil to turn algae into fuel and believes there could
be a new Industrial Revolution.
Scientists did it by designing a digital
code on a computer, building a chromosome "from four bottles
of chemicals," assembling the chromosome in yeast cells and
transplanting it into the cell of a bacterium, creating a
The team synthesized the 1.08 million base
pair chromosome of a modified Mycoplasma mycoides genome.
The man-made single celled organism, nicknamed
Synthia, is able to multiply, one of the definitions
of being alive.
Vaccines that can be quickly produced to fight
evolving diseases such as AIDS, flu and the common cold. Algae
that can be engineered to turn carbon dioxide into gasoline
and diesel fuel.
These are among the innovations that could
result from the research of J. Craig Venter's team, which
announced that it had created "the first cell that is totally
controlled by a synthetic chromosome."
J. Craig Venter is founder and president
of the J. Craig Venter Institute, a nonprofit organization
"dedicated to human, microbial, plant and environmental genomic
research, the exploration of social and ethical issues in
genomics, and seeking alternative energy solutions through
a leader in the sequencing of the human genome, also hinted
at another, more basic and less immediately practical, reason
for creating synthetic life.
He explained that scientists had embedded in
the genetic code of the First
synthetic life form in the World three quotations,
including this one from physicist Richard Feynman: "What I
cannot build, I cannot understand." To understand life really,
the quotation suggests, it's necessary to know how to create
Venter said before the work was done, a
team of experts conducted a two-year study of the ethics of
creating life in a laboratory.
He said the White House and other government
officials have been briefed about the work -- and that White
House officials favored open publication of the research,
rather than deciding to classify it.