Craig Venter, som klartla hele det menneskelige genom kommersielt, har lykkes å skape den første kunstige livsform, som reproduserer seg selv. Det er en encellet bakterie som heter Synthia. BBC sammenligner det med splittingen av atomet. En vitenskapsmann trodde det kan være starten på den tredje industrielle revolusjon.
Venters laboratorier har tatt DNA-koden til en av verdens enkleste bakterier og reprodusert den digitalt: de har gitt den et vannmerke, for å vise at den er deres, og injisert det inn i en bakterie. Den kunstige DNA-strukturen fortrenger den naturlige. Det avgjørende punkt er når bakterien begynner å reprodusere. Det regnes som kriteriet på liv. Det har Venter lykkes med.
«We are entering an era limited only by our imagination,» he said announcing the research published in the journal Science.
Dr Venter, a pioneer of genetic code sequencing and his team at the J Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, have been chasing the goal for more than 15 years at a cost of £30m.
First they sequenced the genetic code of Mycoplasma genitalium, the world’s smallest bacteria that lives in cattle and goats, and stored the information on a computer.
Then they used the computer code to artificially reproduce the DNA in the laboratory, slightly modifying it with a «watermark» so it was distinguishable from the original natural one.
Finally they developed a technique of stripping bacteria cells of all original DNA and substituting it with the new artificial code.
The resulting «synthetic cell» was then «rebooted» and it started to replicate. The ability to reproduce or replicate is considered the basic definition of life.
Dr Venter compared his work with the building of a computer. Making the artificial DNA was the equivalent of creating the software for the operating system. Transferring it to a cell was like loading it into the hardware and running the programme.
«This is the first synthetic cell that’s been made, and we call it synthetic because the cell is totally derived from a synthetic chromosome, made with four bottles of chemicals on a chemical synthesizer, starting with information in a computer,» said Dr Venter.
«This becomes a very powerful tool for trying to design what we want biology to do. We have a wide range of applications [in mind],» he said.
The researchers are planning to design algae that can capture carbon dioxide and make new hydrocarbons that could go into refineries.
They are also working on ways to speed up vaccine production, making new chemicals or food ingredients and cleaning up water, said Dr Venter.
Scientist Craig Venter creates life for first time in laboratory sparking debate about ‘playing god’
Artificial life has been created in a laboratory for the first time by a maverick scientist.