Scientists Create Synthetic Life
Scientists in the US have successfully created artificial life with the development of a living cell controlled by synthetic DNA. Scientists copied an existing bacterial genome, and by using "synthesis machines," they chemically constructed a copy of its sequenced genetic code.
Dr. Craig Venter, the leading researcher in breakthrough development, "likened the advance to making new software for the cell." The process involves placing the synthetic chromosome and transplanting it into a recipient cell of a different organism. As stated by Venter, once the software, or synthetic cell, is introduced to the foreign organism, the cell reads the upload, deciphers it's coding, and then converts it into the genetic language of the new host cell.
The plan for this new development is to use these newly created bacteria to aid in useful functions in such fields as health care, and alternate energy. According to Venter, "If we can really get cells to do the production that we want, they could help wean us off oil and reverse some of the damage of the environment by capturing carbon dioxide."
Dr. Venter and his colleagues are already collaborating with pharmaceutical and fuel companies to design new chromosomes to aid in the development of new fuels and vaccines. Critics and environmentalists warn that releasing synthetic bacteria into the environment via new organisms has the potential to do more harm than good. History has made us aware of the dangers of introducing foreign life into individual ecosystems, and the devastating effects they can have on local populations.
Despite the criticisms, it is possible to imagine that if used purely to benefit the well being of all life--and not the life of a corporation--this new breakthrough could mean a step to greater balance with ourselves, and our planet.
Image, "Green Tech" by jurvetson on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.