Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Calling Dr. Frankenstein - Synthetic life form grows in Florida lab

MSNBC - February 27, 2009, by Irene Klotz

Researchers in a Florida laboratory are working with the most basic building blocks of life to try and understand how biology first arose on Earth — and how it might appear on other planets.

When NASA began thinking about missions to look for life beyond Earth, it realized it had a problem: how to recognize life if it were found.

Scientists came up with a definition for life — a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution — but remained understandably fuzzy on the details.

It is still not known how life on Earth took hold, what happened to a bunch of chemicals that made them capable of supporting a metabolism, replicating and evolution. But a new field of science, called synthetic biology, is aiming to find out.

One of the most promising developments lies in a beaker of water inside a Florida laboratory. It's an experiment called AEGIS — an acronym for Artificially Expanded Genetic Information System. Its creator, Steve Benner, says it is the first synthetic genetic system capable of Darwinian evolution.

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