Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, December 21, 2009

Artificial life be created in 2010?

New Scientist - 12.21.09 (by Peter Aldhous)

Building life from scrap in the lab (Image: Thomas Deerinck/NCMIR/SPL).

Waiting for Synthia - that has been the script for enthusiasts of synthetic life for the past two years, ever since genomics pioneer Craig Venter promised to unveil a living bacterial cell carrying a genome made from scratch in the lab. 2010 is the year for him to deliver.

Synthia is the popular name for a species containing a lab-built set of genetic instructions that are close to the minimum necessary to support bacterial life - based on the DNA of a microbe called Mycoplasma genitalium.

When Venter announced the creation of a synthetic M. genitalium genome in January 2008, Synthia's birth was thought to be imminent. Just months before, his team had demonstrated the technology for smuggling the DNA into a living bacterial cell, by performing a "genome transplant" between two different Mycoplasma species.

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