Thursday, May 20, 2010

First Self-Replicating Synthetic Bacterial Cell

First Self-Replicating, Synthetic Bacterial Cell Constructed by J. Craig Venter Institute Researchers

Video presentation by Venter on YouTube

ROCKVILLE, MD and San Diego, CA (May 20, 2010)— Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, published results today describing the successful construction of the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. The team synthesized the 1.08 million base pair chromosome of a modified Mycoplasma mycoides genome. The synthetic cell is called Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 and is the proof of principle that genomes can be designed in the computer, chemically made in the laboratory and transplanted into a recipient cell to produce a new self-replicating cell controlled only by the synthetic genome.

This research will be published by Daniel Gibson et al in the May 20th edition of Science Express and will appear in an upcoming print issue of Science.

Some reactions:

ETC Group: Synthia is Alive … and Breeding: Panacea or Pandora's Box?
New York Times: Researchers Say They Created a ‘Synthetic Cell’
La Repubblica (in Italian): Creata cellula che si riproduce "PiĆ¹ vicina la vita artificiale"
And some surprisingly friendly comments by the Church: Bagnasco: "Segno di intelligenza umana"

My comment: The articles I have seen in the press contain some inaccuracies and much hype, but Venter's achievement remains very significant. Non only scientifically significant, but also memetically significant. It is now evident (or, more evident: to me it was already evident) that life can be reverse-engineered, re-engineered, and improved upon. No vitalist mysticism, but natural laws which can be fully understood and used by engineering.