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Scientist Claims to Have Created First Synthetic Life Form

A team led by geneticist J. Craig Venter claims to have created a synthetic life form. This process involved building a genome from pre-existing fragments and then placing the resulting product inside a single-celled organism. The cell then accepted the genome and began replicating:

A few years ago, the researchers transplanted an entire natural genome — the genetic code — of one bacterium into another and watched it take over, turning a goat germ into a cattle germ.

Next, the researchers built from scratch another, smaller bacterium's genome, using off-the-shelf laboratory-made DNA fragments.

Friday's report combines those two achievements to test a big question: Could synthetic DNA really take over and drive a living cell? Somehow, it did.

"This is transforming life totally from one species into another by changing the software," said Venter, using a computer analogy to explain the DNA's role.[...]

That fixed, the transplant worked. The recipient cell started out with synthetic DNA and its original cytoplasm, but the new genome "booted up" that cell to start producing only proteins that normally would be found in the copied goat germ. The researchers had tagged the synthetic DNA to be able to tell it apart, and checked as the modified cell reproduced to confirm that new cells really looked and behaved like M. mycoides.


http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jUy0CkhjIEOS2ZY_SP3gWg8ELgewD9FQPB980 via DVICE | Photo: University of Florida

This is exciting news.

We should keep in mind that all inventions/discoveries have the potential to do both great harm and great good. Fear of the negative side of that potential should never halt scientific advancement.
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Have they never read a Michael Crichton novel? (Nature will find a way, and man's arrogance will lead him to believe he can control nature, only to find he can't...)
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Of course this can be used for both good and evil. I believe that great evil will likely come of it by someone intending to do great good. Good luck, I say, and push onward, but it probably will not yield very happy results. And anyone who would suggest that this couldn't possibly lead to negative results is a total twit, lex.
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What's the problem here? The "inserting a genome" probably involves putting it in via a needle. Imagine that you could inject one of your cells with some random genome to turn it into a goat cell. You've got a fully-functional immune system that recognizes things like this and attacks them. Say one of your cells turns into a goat cell, your immune system would then detect that the cell is foreign and attack it. A similar thing happens in your body all the time; cells spontaneously mutate or become "out of line," and your body attacks it (cancer is the failing of this mechanism, and is quite rare considering this). The switch in this story is much less worse than cancer, as the cells are obviously foreign. It might be possible to make it like a cancer and self-replicating, but this would be very intentional and difficult; it would be easier to just use conventional weapons, if that was your intent.
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Also, it's much easier to copy something than it is to make something completely from scratch. To think that we could engineer a lifeform so perfect that it would take over and consume the entire earth is a bit arrogant. It's much more likely that we'd engineer a bacteria that would fail in its purpose within a few generations of the bacteria; not because we failed, but because natural life on earth is better-adapted and more fit to survive.
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If you didn't RTFA, here's the key points:

1. the genome was planted into a "fairly close cousin"
2. The first attempt failed; it turned out they got "one letter out of a million" wrong (note the touchiness of "cooking up" life).
3. "It's partially synthetic, some said, because Venter's team had to stick the manmade genetic code inside a living cell from a related species. That cell was more than just a container; it also contained its own cytoplasm — the liquid part."
4. "Venter said he removed 14 genes thought to make the germ dangerous to goats before doing the work, and had briefed government officials about the work over the course of several years — acknowledging that someone potentially could use this emerging field for harm instead of good."

These points being said, it was still a huge success.

In closing, I just want to add that when a day comes where the ignorant are the ones who decide what can and cannot be researched, then science is dead. One cannot make a proper decision regarding the science without understanding the scope of that science. I am upset when people outlaw things like stem cell research and sciences like this, and then turn around and demand to know why cancer is not cured or why their loved one is sitting on an "organ donor death row list." If you don't understand, read up or STFU.
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I for one bow down to Stuart who will hopefully be the first to get infected when one of these creations gets out and evolves into something not intended nor expected.

How else will we get superpowers anyway?
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Why is it that so many people think progress is doom? I just don't understand it.

Ok, maybe this could lead to something bad. Maybe it will. But what if it doesn't? What if the research is something that winds up saving or extending millions of lives? Something like... oh... the practice of modern medicine did.

Does everyone think that there were no risks involved in the study of that, or in other scientific fields? Things that have added a wealth of knowledge and have helped enrich the lives of practically everything in the world?

Really, I say bravo to this breakthrough. Being able to replace cells in a living organism could be what we need to find the cure for cancer (which are, as one person above explained, mutated cells) and to no longer require painful and expensive chemotherapy while only hoping the patient will get better. Not to mention all the other potential uses.

Also as mentioned above, while this could be used to hurt or kill people, it would serve a much greater purpose for healing. And if you really wanted to mess with a population, chemical warfare would be so much easier and less expensive.

So I say, let the scientists continue doing their work advancing technology and enhancing our lives, and start complaining when something that could actually be humongously dangerous to society begins to occur.

P.S. Keep in mind that for this technology to pose any threat to humans to begin with, it would have to be injected/transplanted/whatever-other-synonym-you-want-to-use. If it is transferred any other way, it's just a different form of chemical warfare, which as we all know already exists.
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Wow lex, and I hate individuals who make themselves appear even MORE ignorant with the usage of the R word. Get a grip and learn about how the titles you use in a negative way could affect certain groups of people with intellectual disabilities.
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R word? Did you really just say "R word?" On the internet, no less? I thought it was really awesome when PC types started referring to the "N word" and "C word" but this one is new and hilarious. Thanks for that Lauren, you just made my day a little brighter.
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