Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reading and Writing to Genes - How to accelerate evolution

Editor's Note: Remember when reading the genetic codes of organisms was new and exciting? Now, the cutting edge is writing genetic codes. Researchers have been able to manipulate individual genes in order to change an organism's properties for a few years, but now, thanks to this new development, they can manipulate thousands at a time.

New Scientist - July 26, 2009, by Ewen Callaway

If humans want to persuade microbes to produce vast quantities of fuels or pharmaceuticals, we may need to give evolution a helping hand. A new genome engineering machine that tweaks dozens of genes to create billions of unique strains in a few days does just that.

"This technique allows us to do some amount of rapid evolution," says Harris Wang, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, who led the project along with colleagues Farren Isaacs and George Church.

"The general motivation behind what we're trying to do is develop a set of techniques that will allow us to write into the genome of any organism with the same ease that we are able to read from the genome by DNA sequencing," he adds.

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