There has been much hubbub about the news from J. Craig Venter on the creation of artificial life. While the news of this has excited the scientific community, some in the popular press have raised the fearful ‘monster’ factor. (‘Frankenstein’ lab creates life in a test tube. Daily Express, May 21 2010, ‘Frankenstein’ doc creates life. The Sun, May 21 2010. Scientist Craig Venter creates life for first time in laboratory sparking debate about ‘playing god’. The Daily Telegraph, May 21 2010. Artificial life: Have scientists created a monster? Daily Mail, May 21 2010)
So what has Venter’s team done? The NHS has an excellent website that looks at news headlines that feature scientific studies that may have consequences to health. Called Behind the Headlines, the NHS explains the issue clearly and presents the facts behind the news media’s sensationalism of the science. From Synthetic cell created in lab:
This was a laboratory “proof of concept” study. The scientists copied the DNA sequence of a bacterium called Mycoplasma mycoides, then constructed a synthetic genome and transplanted it into a host bacterium cell called Mycoplasma capricolum, replacing this bacterium’s own DNA. They then assessed whether the cell could complete normal cell functions, such as producing proteins from the synthetic DNA and dividing or multiplying.
Read the complete article here.
For more information:
- Elizabeth Pennisi at Science explains in Synthetic Genome Brings New Life to Bacterium
- Carl Zimmer at The Loom looks at the process of ‘watermarking’ the genome in his article James Joyce’s Words Come To Life, And Are Promptly Desecrated.
- And for pub-going pirates, ‘Captain Skellett’ of A Schooner of Science explains the process in “What is the Synthetic Cell?”
And see the original research in Science:
D. G. Gibson , J. I. Glass , C. Lartigue , et al. Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome. Published Online May 20, 2010. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1190719