Azara Blog: Craig Venter makes synthetic genome

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Date published: 2010/05/22

The BBC says:

Scientists in the US say they have succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell.

The researchers constructed a bacterium's "genetic software" and transplanted it into a host cell.

The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species "dictated" by the synthetic DNA.

The advance, published in Science, has been hailed as a scientific landmark, but critics say there are dangers posed by synthetic organisms.

The researchers hope eventually to design bacterial cells that will produce medicines and fuels and even absorb greenhouse gases.

The team was led by Dr Craig Venter of the J Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Maryland and California.

He and his colleagues had previously made a synthetic bacterial genome, and transplanted the genome of one bacterium into another.

Now, the scientists have put both methods together, to create what they call a "synthetic cell", although only its genome is truly synthetic.

This is another great advance forward in biological techniques. But the hype about the advances it will lead to is still only hype. On the other hand, the "critics" are the usual suspects who cannot cope with biotechnology, or indeed with almost any technology that is post industrial revolution. As with any new technology, there are risks that are not fully understood. But there are risks with anything, and there is no point refusing to develop technology just because some middle class "critics" cannot cope with the modern world.

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