In a development that seems likely to stir a firestorm of controversy, researchers said Thursday that they have used genes made in the lab to create a synthetic species of bacteria.Yup. Just a matter of time.
"We're here to announce the first synthetic cell," said J. Craig Venter, head of the self-named J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., and leader of one of the teams that decoded the human genome.
He told reporters that the new species -- dubbed Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 -- is similar to one found in nature, except that the chromosome that controls each cell was created from scratch. The research is reported in the May 20 issue of the journal Science.
The new species, Venter said, started with researchers digitizing the genetic code for the new species on computers, then assembling the nucleotides using "four bottles of chemicals" into sections of DNA. The DNA sections were assembled in yeast cells to form a synthetic chromosome, which was then transferred to a related species of bacteria, M. capricolum.
Here's a great line from later in the piece:
"This is the first self-replicating species that we've had on the planet whose parent is a computer," Venter said.Gotta love scientists.