Artificial Life

The Guardian (United Kingdom) is reporting that

Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.
The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming.

Supposedly, Mr. Venter has yet to take the final step of transplanting the artificial genome into a living bacterial cell.

The team of scientists has already successfully transplanted the genome of one type of bacterium into the cell of another, effectively changing the cell’s species. Mr Venter said he was “100% confident” the same technique would work for the artificially created chromosome.
The new life form will depend for its ability to replicate itself and metabolise on the molecular machinery of the cell into which it has been injected, and in that sense it will not be a wholly synthetic life form. However, its DNA will be artificial, and it is the DNA that controls the cell and is credited with being the building block of life.

It would be interesting to learn the composition of his “ethics committee”:

Mr Venter said he had carried out an ethical review before completing the experiment. “We feel that this is good science,” he said.

Possibly the “we” includes a larger circle than Mr. Venter realizes.

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Tim
Tim
13 years ago

“It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming.”
Therein lies the genuine quandry. Scientific breakthrough and advancement are so necessary for human survival. Yet at the same time those advances have the capability of producing outcomes the human race isn’t mature enough to properly handle and manage.
The words of physicist Stephen Hawking are worth remembering, “First of all, I believe that life on Earth is at an ever increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers. I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space.”

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