Despite our best efforts, humans are still not as skilled at making life as life forms are themselves. So naturally, DARPA would like to take advantage of that skill. A new program called “Living Foundries” seeks to use biology as a manufacturing platform, enabling the creation of new materials that are impossible to make today.
In a breakthrough that’s sure to stir up some controversy, Princeton researchers have reported that they have for the first time created artificial proteins from scratch in the lab that have enabled the growth of living cells. To achieve this, they created genetic sequences never seen in nature and produced completely synthetic proteins that were not modeled on living examples. They then inserted them into living bacteria, many of which thrived with their synthetic molecular machines.
When the J. Craig Venter Institute announced last week that it had created the first "synthetic cell," whose genome had been synthesized artificially one base pair at a time, Venter himself mentioned that the genetic code had been tagged throughout with watermarks that identify it as man-made rather than natural code. Now we're hearing that those watermarks weren't arbitrary.
If figuring out how to quickly sequence genomes was but the first small step for genetics, Craig Venter has gone ahead and made a giant leap for the discipline. The J. Craig Venter Institute announced today that it has created the world’s first synthetic cell, boasting a completely synthetic chromosome produced by a machine.
“This is the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer,” Venter said in a press conference.