Sunday, May 30, 2010

Playing God...You be the Judge

In a recent issue of Science magazine, the genome pioneer Craig Venter announced that he and scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute had created a “synthetic cell.” Mr. Venter heralded it as “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer” and said it could allow humans to create new vaccines and biofuels using artificial microbes.

Mr. Venter’s claim to have created a synthetic species is likely overstated. But there is no denying that he has brought us an important step closer to the possibility of artificial life. President Obama has asked the White House bioethics commission to report back to him on the significance of this development.

“Synthetic cell” makes it sound as though Mr. Venter had constructed the entire cell, molecule by molecule. What he has done is create a synthetic genome — the longest string of DNA to be assembled in a laboratory — and place it in a bacterium. There, the synthetic DNA takes over the cell’s DNA, causing the bacterium to synthesize the proteins specified by the new DNA.

For the rest go to: New York Times
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