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Planet Earth

Synthetic Genome+Natural Cell=New Life?

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerMay 20, 2010 9:55 PM

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Craig Venter has taken yet another step towards his goal of creating synthetic life forms. He's synthesized the genome of a microbe and then implanted that piece of DNA into a DNA-free cell of another species. And that...that thing...can grow and divide. It's hard to say whether this is "life from scratch," because the boundary between such a thing and ordinary life (and non-life) is actually blurry. For example, you could say that this is still a nature hybrid, because its DNA is based on the sequence of an existing species of bacteria. If Venter made up a sequence from scratch, maybe we'd have crossed to a new terrain. Anyway--this news just hit the wires thanks to an embargo break, so I don't have time to go into more detail. Joe Palca at NPR has posted his article on the subject. For background, please check out these stories I've written about this general area of research: Tinker, Tailor: Can Venter Stitch Together A Genome From Scratch?The Meaning of LifeThe Six Most Important Experiments In The WorldArtificial Life? Old News.The High-Tech Search For A Cleaner Biofuel AlternativeOn the Origin of TomorrowMy Bloggingheads interview with Venter Update: The scientists are in a live press conference that started a 1 pm.

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