Selasa, 29 Januari 2008

Creating Synthetic Life

Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md. have succeeded in synthesizing the entire genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium, using only the four nucleotides of which all DNA is comprised. It’s an astonishing feat, considering that the M. genitalium genome is nearly 600,000 base pairs long. The next step, say the researchers, is to insert the synthetic DNA into a cell. If all goes well, the DNA will replicate itself and the cell will divide, becoming the first living, self-reproducing organism ever created synthetically in a laboratory.

The synthesis of the entire genome of an organism paves the way for experiments to determine the minimum number of genes required for life – the minimum operating system, so to speak. Looking further to the future, someday it may even be possible to create synthetic organisms for specific purposes, such as manufacturing medicines or cleaning up the environment. We’d better start thinking about how we want to regulate or control this new technology.

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