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.
The biological breakthrough could have myriad applications, as it essentially opens the door to engineered biology that is completely manipulated by laboratory scientists. The researchers are already planning to create a specially engineered algae designed to trap carbon dioxide and convert it to biofuel. Other applications could include medicine, environmental cleanup, and energy production.
Though a bacteria cell was the final product in this particular experiment, eukaryotic yeast was a critical player in the process. Venter and company synthesized the genome of the bacterium M. mycoides by taking short strains of DNA (contemporary machines can only assemble short sequences at a time) and inserting them into yeast, whose enzymes have a keen ability to repair DNA and combine the short strains together.
The yeast first linked the shorter snippets (just over 1,000 base pairs each) together into longer 10,000 base pair strands. The longer strands were removed, further combined in groups of ten and put back into yeast to connect 100,000 base pair strands. After three rounds of this, the team had produced the full genome, stretching more than a million base pairs. To distinguish their synthetic genome from those found in nature, special "watermark" sequences were added to the DNA so that it won't be mistaken for a natural species.
The synthetic genome was then transplanted into another type of bacteria, Mycoplasma capricolum, where the synthetic genome started producing new proteins. The capricolum's original genome was either destroyed by M. mycoides' enzymes or lost during cell replication. Either way, as the cells multiplied, cells were produced borne solely of the synthesized genome and there it was in the petri dish: the world's first synthetic cells built from wholly synthesized DNA.
"Every component in the cell comes from the synthetic genome," Venter said. "This cell, its lineage is a computer. But this cell is simply a proof of concept to get to the minimal understanding of the synthetic genome."
Not everyone is thrilled with the achievement, however. Upon the announcement, some researchers questioned the validity of the term "synthetic cell" because though the genome was fabricated by computer, the process merely modified existing life rather than created it from scratch. There are also plenty ethical – and legal – ramifications to such a technological advance that will no doubt be argued in coming months.
What is not up for dispute is that Venter and company have carried out a serious technological feat in stringing together a million nucleotide base pairs to create a complete genome in the lab. Not only that, but they did it accurately enough that the cell accepted the DNA.
"Probably 99% of our experiments have failed," Venter said of the decades-long journey to this point. "This was a debugging, problem solving process from the beginning, because there was no recipe."
Now that there's a recipe, Venter and company want to get cooking. Having strung 1 million base pairs into a coherent genome, Venter said the next step is algae, as algal genomes generally contain just under 2 million base pairs. By comparison, the human genome contains more than 3 billion pairs, so don't look for synthetic mammals any time soon.
“This cell, its lineage is a computer."
im sorry, but the computer is not a biological being, so it couldnt have passed down its dna to the cells, it was merely an incubator for the cells to be manufactured in.
... and so it begins.
Queue Resident Evil. Heavy stuff is goin down..
Brilliant. One step closer to developing an organism that start can munching away all the nasty CO2, make renewable fuels, save the world then take control of all the humans and establish itself as Earths dominant lifeform...
Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all.
thats nice and all but is the final genome one they were aiming for or a random result?
What The FRAK
Extreme, you clearly know nothing about the synthetic creation of genomes, and probably didn't even read the article, or else you would know that the computer did create the genomes. The yeast cell acted as an incubator for the genomes as they were assembled into large strands, as described in the article, and the bacteria cell was later the home for it, but the molecules of the DNA were assembled into small strands by a computed before being put into the yeast.
Hmph, just wait, all sorts of Religious groups are gonna come out screaming, " how dare they immitate god's work" or some other nonsense like that. They're just getting mad that technology and science are making god(s) more obsolete every day.
But I digress, this is quite interesting, especially the use of the yeast to assemble the strands of DNA for these new cells.
Good job, Keep at it guys!
I guess to me the issue of 'is it real or is it synthetic' can be answered with the asking of a simple question. Did the naturally occurring yeast change the DNA in any way other than placement? If it did, then the end result is not wholly synthetic, but a mutation of natural and synthetic processes and materials. Still, the implications are huge; custom antibodies, antivirals, organ regeneration, biologically grown supercomputers...and don't forget the man-made DNA strands they put in Superbowl footballs, they allow instant authentication. Could be used for security cards, in money...and who knows? Maybe even radiation resistance, or immunity from stuff like sarin or ricin. I wonder what kinds of amino acids and complexes they are using for their proteins? I'd imagine a functioning ribosome would be a primary benchmark.
Logical Atheist, please explain how science makes God obsolete? A majority of high energy physics actually believe in a God, Russell Stannard being a good example. Google the anthropic principle. Anyway I don't think anyone can prove or disprove the existence of a higher power stuck in the 3rd dimension, when one cant even imagine a tesseract (a cube in the 4th dimension) let alone the 10th dimension of space and time. The more discoveries we make in the field of science the more we realize how much we don't know.
This synthetic cell is a wonderful achievement, and I see it being very beneficial to human life in many ways.
I wonder if it will ever be possible to sequence genomes in a synthetic cell with more than four nuclear base pairs.
Wow! Just imagine all the possibilities of such a discovery!
amazing, wonderful this is a step into the future for mankind, as long as we don't let the so-called "ethical" naysayers get in the way
can't wait till they inevitably go multicellular...
the fact that they made a synthetic cell doesn't scare me, it's the fact that people make mistakes or sometimes push the limits of their unknowns (ie. tinker) with things. That's when you create a "grey goo" that consumes every organic organism in the earth and replicates exponentially.
I am so glad I have a zombie plan... Although "gray goo" doesn't sound as fun to run away from.
So, in the eyes of the new synthetic life, would Craig Venter be considered God to them?
God is dead, long live the Gods!
to answer cydonia1's question:
my reasoning behind my statement..."technology and science are making god(s) more obsolete every day." is this... religion and gods were created back when science as we knew it didn't exist. people were stupid, and used gods to explain the unknown. now that science and technology are explaining things with EVIDENCE rather than STORIES and MYTHS, religion in general is losing purpose and becoming obsolete.
does that answer your question cydonia1?
Congress must immediately pass an anti-descrimination law protecting artifical life forms!
Actually the Ammino Acids were constructed synthetically and then strung together by the computer, in essence the computer was passing/putting down the DNA that it "had".
Actually the Tenth Dimension is all the Dimensions and all the Time-frames of those dimensions put together. Also, I would like to add that the reason time isn't a dimension is that it only is a direction, it can only go forwards and backwards, and for those of you who know more, it includes all the branching parts of the first 3 dimensions, and time travel is possible if, one day, we can sum up enough power and technology to cause a "folding of a dimension", and then have a noble researcher transverse to the other side, probably never to return.
@ logical atheist: I dont understand how science is making god obsolete. Perhaps our understanding of god is evolving and becoming a little different but as my organic chemistry professor says, the great architect of the universe must be a chemist! In all my study of science i have yet to run across a professor that does not believe in god. ironically enough it is much more common for those who have very little or no science backround to say science dismisses god.
for one thing i study science a lot. i'm far from your average Joe when it comes to scientific knowledge.
the way i see it, science is evolving our "understanding of god" by showing how unnecessary one is to build a world like ours.
secondly, i understand that many scientists believe in god as well. i fail to understand why. mainly because 999,999 times out of a million, all religions on this planet fly in the face of all modern scientific knowledge.
Example, the alleged resurrection of Jesus Christ.
it is absolutely 100% impossible based on modern medical knowledge to be fatally wounded, then 3 days later wake up like nothing happened. not to mention that he just "happen" to have the physical strength to move the giant boulder sealing his grave. Therefore, based on current knowledge, we must conclude that the resurrection as stated in the bible is impossible and didn't happen.
now here's a logical explanation of the "resurrection"...
it is entirely possible that rather than dying on the cross, he simply slipped into a coma-like state.(people 2000 years ago probably couldn't tell the difference with their almost nonexistent medical knowledge so everyone assumed he was dead.) then 3 days later, he came out of the coma(also with his lack of modern medical knowledge) thought he died and came back to life. he then went around telling everyone that god brought him back to life because AT THE TIME there was no other way of explaining such an event. so naturally, all the people back then thought Jesus received some "divine intervention" and treated him like the amazing guy people have been thinking he was for the last 2000+ years.
hopefully this is a reasonable explanation of my reasoning.
(did i really just type a comment that long? XD )
I love how something that was announced last year is worthy of the broader media community now only because the Vatican just heard about it.
This one is a scientific advance of a lot of importance for the humanity, though the implications are enormous. (Since it it was the development of the atomic power, for example).
There can be created forms of life that originate some type of energetic alternative source, as it is said in this article, but also they can be used as chemical or biological weapon, the panorama is diverse.
With regard to saying that " His father was a computer " I think that it is disheveled, " the man does to the machine ", it is more acceptable, like that that it does the machine becomes by the man.
The topic of the religion and the science is something complicated of defining, I ask: Which is the religion? This way of simple, there are many religions in the world, which is the real one?, the original one? If it is possible to say this way, or if actually the religions are alone lies... Perhaps can science help us to clarify this doubt?
BEHOLD!!! I SAY!!! The beer you could make from these synthetic beauties would be wicked...we'll call it "Bitwise Beer"
I praise the mind who developed it. But the lesson for atheists is "Look for the chain of creator, which has allowed his creation to make their creation too, but only with his will". Praise to that mind who developed or created that so called synthetic Genome, but all praises to that ONLY creator who created us.
@ atheist: Modern medicine doesnt know a lot of things. That's why scientists still have jobs. It seems you have only speculation to support your idea. I believe the scientific theory was developed to separate scientists from the limited, illogical train of thought of religious nuts and atheists alike. Scientists are so much more rational and logical. Id forgotten how infernally illogical all god-obsessed individuals are. Its unfortunate that science gets mixed up with those groups.
@blanca: i'm aware that modern medicine still doesn't know alot. i simply described a situation using information that modern medicine DOES know.
but anyway, i don't wish to continue this argument and i doubt you do either. let's just leave it at this...
you're entitled to your opinion as i am to mine. whether we agree or not is a totally different story.
but thanks for providing an interesting discussion, debating is fun isn't it? :)
1. why is it that every atheist has to have that they are atheist in their usernames and always say that everyone who believes in religion is stupid?
2. You obviously don't know much about the process of crucifixion. You don't survive crucifixion. You don't go into a coma and awaken 3 days later. You die when you are crucified. you have to push up with your feet as you try to prevent your lungs from filling up with blood until they finally do. and the Romans made sure you were dead.
3. you completely contradict yourself. you say that its impossible for him to be crucified then move a giant boulder to get out of his tomb. but then you say the logical explanation is that he was in a coma then awoke, but you forget the whole "moving the boulder" part. just b/c he was in a coma and not dead does not mean he can move a giant boulder. in fact, i'd like to see you be crucified then trying to move a boulder, much less do anything at all.
4. you obviously know nothing about christianity b/c if you did, you would know that it does not say that he moved the boulder.
5. your "completely logical explanation" for Jesus' resurrection is completely contradictory and flawed. you say that "it is absolutely 100% impossible based on modern medical knowledge to be fatally wounded, then 3 days later wake up like nothing happened" but then you say that he could have been crucified then went into a coma then woke up 3 days later and walked around and everyone was baffled. so you are saying that it is in compliance with "modern medical knowledge" that one can be crucified then walk around later. in case you didn't know, crucifixion breaks your bones and causes you to internally bleed to death. last time I checked, it is impossible to simply "wake up" and walk around after that.
I don't care if you're atheist. be atheist. it doesnt matter to me. if thats wat you believe then believe it. but don't go around spitting on believers of christianity or any other religion. because obviously you are illinformed. and it just makes you sound like an idiot when you contradict yourself when telling other people they are idiots