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Scientists Create Living Cell From Synthetically-Engineered DNA
elo27@cornell.edu
| May 21, 2010
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For the first time ever, and after almost 15 years of work, a team of scientists have developed a living, self-replicating bacterial cell whose DNA was engineered entirely from scratch through the use of synthetic, computerized methods. Every bit of this cell's DNA, which was based off of the DNA of an existing bacterial cell, was chemically assembled in a lab. The project, led by Dr. J. Craig Venter, involved sequencing the genome of a bacterium of type Mycoplasma mycoses, and then using yeast cells to reconstruct its chromosomal sequence. The resultant sequence, which contained over one million nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA) was then transplanted into another species of Mycoplasma bacteria, a close cousin of the source cell. During the first test run of the cell-development process, a small genetic "typo" unexpectedly halted progress. (Sometimes, being off by even one nucleotide can mean the difference between success and failure.) After this correction, however, the newly-created bacterium began synthesizing proteins that could only be found in the source bacterium, but not in the species that was now hosting the transplanted DNA. This meant success. Beyond just being impressive, this achievement has great potential for practical applications, perhaps eventually helping us to create organisms that can process environmental toxins, or ones that can create fuels. We could even see related advances in the field of medicine, using synthetically-made bacteria to create medications or vaccines. We're definitely looking at some incredible work here, and this discovery will likely lead to a lot of great things. As we so often see, Tomorrow continues to hold a great deal of promise in the field of biology.
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