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  Tuesday, May 25, 2010
  First synthetic life form - J. Craig Venter Institute sets world record
  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.

   Photo: The World's First synthetic life form: M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 / JCVI photo (enlarge photo)

     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 new species.

   The team synthesized the 1.08 million base pair chromosome of a modified Mycoplasma mycoides genome.

    The World's First synthetic life form is called Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 and is the proof of principle that genomes can be designed in the computer, chemically made in the laboratory and transplanted into a recipient cell to produce a new self-replicating cell controlled only by the synthetic 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 genomics."

   Venter, 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 it.

   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.

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   Related world records:
   Biggest scientific project -The Large Hadron Collider Project sets world record

  Largest periodic table of elements-world record set by Fossil Ridge students

   Most efficient bacteria test-world record set by Mobidiag

    Longest model of a DNA gene-world record set at Huddersfield University

   Tuesday, May 25, 2010

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