A Blog devoted to progressive politics, environmental issues, LGBT issues, social justice, workers' rights, womens' rights, and, most importantly, Cats.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Science - Artificial Life Created

The Guardian informs us today that Craig Venter, working with a team of scientists, will soon announce the successful creation of a synthetic chromosome from chemicals in his laboratory.
The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming.

Mr Venter told the Guardian he thought this landmark would be "a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before".

The Guardian can reveal that a team of 20 top scientists assembled by Mr Venter, led by the Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith, has already constructed a synthetic chromosome, a feat of virtuoso bio-engineering never previously achieved. Using lab-made chemicals, they have painstakingly stitched together a chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code.
This is so exciting. The scientists have watermarked the chromosome with inks to make it easily identifiable. (I wonder what that means? I wish they'd show us what it looks like, but that will probably done at some conference or other of their peers. Rats!)

It's based on Mycoplasma genitalium, and they've dubbed it Mycoplasma laboratorium, for now, anyway. The ramifications are enormous. Go read the article. It's fascinating.

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