Craig Venter creates first synthetic life form
2010 05 21

By Ian Sample | Guardian.co.uk


Craig Venter and his team have built the genome of a bacterium from scratch and incorporated it into a cell to make what they call the world’s first synthetic life form

Scientists have created the world’s first synthetic life form in a landmark experiment that paves the way for designer organisms that are built rather than evolved.

The controversial feat, which has occupied 20 scientists for more than 10 years at an estimated cost of $40m, was described by one researcher as "a defining moment in biology".

Craig Venter, left, the pioneering US geneticist behind the experiment, said the achievement heralds the dawn of a new era in which new life is made to benefit humanity, starting with bacteria that churn out biofuels, soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and even manufacture vaccines.

However critics, including some religious groups, condemned the work, with one organisation warning that artificial organisms could escape into the wild and cause environmental havoc or be turned into biological weapons. Others said Venter was playing God.

The new organism is based on an existing bacterium that causes mastitis in goats, but at its core is an entirely synthetic genome that was constructed from chemicals in the laboratory.

The single-celled organism has four "watermarks" written into its DNA to identify it as synthetic and help trace its descendants back to their creator, should they go astray.

"We were ecstatic when the cells booted up with all the watermarks in place," Dr Venter told the Guardian. "It’s a living species now, part of our planet’s inventory of life."

Dr Venter’s team developed a new code based on the four letters of the genetic code, G, T, C and A, that allowed them to draw on the whole alphabet, numbers and punctuation marks to write the watermarks. Anyone who cracks the code is invited to email an address written into the DNA.

The research is reported online today in the journal Science.

"This is an important step both scientifically and philosophically," Dr Venter told the journal. "It has certainly changed my views of definitions of life and how life works."

The team now plans to use the synthetic organism to work out the minimum number of genes needed for life to exist. From this, new microorganisms could be made by bolting on additional genes to produce useful chemicals, break down pollutants, or produce proteins for use in vaccines.

Julian Savulescu, professor of practical ethics at Oxford University, said: "Venter is creaking open the most profound door in humanity’s history, potentially peeking into its destiny. He is not merely copying life artificially ... or modifying it radically by genetic engineering. He is going towards the role of a god: creating artificial life that could never have existed naturally."

This is "a defining moment in the history of biology and biotechnology", Mark Bedau, a philosopher at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, told Science.

Dr Venter became a controversial figure in the 1990s when he pitted his former company, Celera Genomics, against the publicly funded effort to sequence the human genome, the Human Genome Project. Venter had already applied for patents on more than 300 genes, raising concerns that the company might claim intellectual rights to the building blocks of life.

Article from: Guardian.co.uk


Video from: YouTube.com



Also tune into:

Aaron Franz - The Age of Transitions

Lenon Honor - The Borg Agenda & The Sexualization of Technology

Sonia Barrett - Immortality and the Quest for Eternal Life

Michael Mautner - Panspermia, Seeding the Universe with Life

H.P. Albarelli Jr. - Germ Warfare, CIA, LSD and the Murder of Dr. Frank Olson

Aaron Franz - TransAlchemy, Save the Humans!

Aaron Franz - Transhuman Fundamentalism

Kevin Warwick - "I, Cyborg": Implants, RFID, Microchips & Cybernetics

Kevin Warwick - Artificial Intelligence & The Rise of the Machines in 2020

Michael Tsarion - The Post Human World



Related Articles
Maryland´s Prometheus
Craig Venter: How to make a new life form (Video)
Did Craig Venter Just Create Synthetic Life? The Jury Is Decidedly Out
Craig Venter: Programming algae to pump out oil
Craig Venter: On the verge of creating synthetic life (Video)
Craig Venter: A voyage of DNA, genes and the sea (Video)
Geneticist Craig Venter Creating Life Form That Turns CO2 to Fuel
Dr. J. Craig Venter - A DNA-Driven World from The Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2007 (Video)
’Darth Venter’ (J. Craig Venter) & The Archon Genomics X Prize
Pentagon Looks to Breed Immortal ‘Synthetic Organisms,’ (Molecular Kill-Switch Included)
Could a ’Synthetic Tree’ Be Better than the Real Thing?
British scientists to create synthetic blood
Who’s afraid of a synthetic human?
Patent sought on ’synthetic life’


Latest News from our Front Page

Norway Joins the Race to Develop Killer Robots
2014 10 24
Norway is a large exporter of weapons, which makes the resolution of the debate about creating killer robots an important issue for everyone.  One could debate the overall merits or failings of robotic systems, but an area that clearly has become a point for concern on all sides is the emergence of "killer robots." According to robotics pioneer, David Hanson, ...
Gene That Once Aided Survival in the Arctic Found to Have Negative Impact on Health Today
2014 10 23
In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a gene variant that arose thousands of years ago and most likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today’s northern populations. {snip} “Our work ...
The Ebola hoax: questions, answers, and the false belief in the “One It”
2014 10 23
“The Reality Manufacturing Company doesn’t just sell ‘fake paintings’ that are easy to spot. No. They also sell images that are geared to mesh with people’s deeply held instincts and thereby produce rigid false beliefs. People are sure that if they gave up such beliefs, their world would fall apart and blow away in the wind.” ...
New Controversial Theory Suggests "Hobbits" Were Not Human - Who Were These Mysterious Beings?
2014 10 23
The origin of the Hobbit species remains a challenging subject to scientists. The Hobbit’s discovery confirmed the view that the Earth was once populated by many species of human, but new research the Hobbit’s were not human at all! So, who were these mysterious beings? Where did they come from? The idea that our species, Homo sapiens, was the only species of human on ...
Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)
2014 10 23
Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece “a3maq news”, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on ...
More News »