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First Synthetic Life Form, Medical Science Might Be Changed Forever

A team of scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute announced that they have successfully created a living organism with a completely synthetic genome.

After almost 15 years of work and $40 M, a team of scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have succeeded in creating the first living organism with a completely synthetic genome. This advance could be proof that genomes designed in a computer and assembled in a lab can function in a donor cell, eventually reproducing fully functional living creatures.

As described in the journal, Science, the study scientists constructed the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides from more than 1,000 sections of preassembled units of DNA. Researchers then transplanted the artificially assembled genome into a M. capricolum cell that had been emptied of its own genome. Once the DNA “booted up,” the bacteria began to function and reproduce in the same manner as naturally occurring M. mycoides. What started off with moving single genes;  began moving genes over and changing different functions inside the cell.  They have now created a living cell by replicating another cell using man-made bits of DNA.

Synthetic bacteria have tantalized scientists for years with the promise of bacterial cultures with computer designed genomes producing custom enzymes, fuels and medications cheaply and efficiently. (HWM and multiple sources)