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Vatican Calls Synthetic Cell Creation – “Interesting”

The Vatican praised scientists, who had created the world’s first synthetic cell, calling it an “interesting result” that could help cure disease.  The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano called it “important research” and “the work of high-quality genetic engineering.”  But it said the scientists who created the cell had not created life,  just “replaced one of its motors.”

The response appears to mark a new stance for the Vatican, which does not officially oppose genetic engineering as long as the science avoids embryonic stem cells, cloning or anything else that fiddles too much with the re-creation of human life.

“Genetic engineering can do good: it is enough to think that it could heal chromosome-related diseases, however, scientists must “join courage with caution, they touch a very fragile territory where the environment and manipulation play a role that cannot be underestimated.”

Genetics pioneer J. Craig Venter, who runs the J. Craig Venter Institute, announced that he and his team had created artificial life for the first time. Using sequences of genetic code created on a computer, the team assembled a complete DNA of a bacterium and inserted it into a cell of bacteria. The new cell was self-replicating, controlled only by the synthetic genome.

Venter said his team had not created life.  ”We created a new cell, it’s alive; but we didn’t create life from scratch, and that the discovery would help give science new tools for a range of applications, from converting carbon dioxide into fuel and creating new food substances to creating new vaccines to treat diseases.”  The breakthrough will stimulate discussion about the possibilities.  He further said his next step would be to “see if we can create some of these cures for the planet.” (HWM and CNN)