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Storming heaven: Craig Venter and team create synthetic life



Everything is just molecules. It's only a matter of time before we get really good at manipulating the world on a molecular level, both from scratch and by reverse-engineering evolved machinery.

Lets hope we don't fuck it up.

Mr/Dr/Minor-Deity Craig Venter does not seem duly enthusiastic when he announces the purpose for his speech. You would think a statement like, "We're here today to announce the first synthetic cell", would be forcefully belted out by a saucer-eyed, apple-cheeked fella with his arms in the air and an ear-to-ear grin.

I mean, this is a pretty big deal, isn't it?

Maybe Dr. Venter has the same foreboding feeling that I do, which is that now it won't be long before this organism is creating its very own laboratory-bred Craig Venters, and the glory of his achievement will fade.

"You would think a statement like, "We're here today to announce the first synthetic cell", would be forcefully belted out by a saucer-eyed, apple-cheeked fella with his arms in the air and an ear-to-ear grin. "

Maybe Graig Venter isn't your average US, talk-show audience member, whoop-at-everything kinda guy. He's probably a feet-on-the-ground kinda scientist.

americans have no use for "feet on the ground" kinda people on the telly. i'm with them on this. the right to be entertained is one of the few rights americans can still count on. i think it's in the constitution. that guy should go get some saucer eyes and nose glasses and come back when he's ready to play ball. :)

I'm not demanding that he liven up his delivery, just expressing the fact that I myself am excited by this breakthrough, while having contributed nothing to it.

This is a historically portentous event, the kind that makes people giddy, and Venter shows remarkable restraint.

Still, I wouldn't have thought it inappropriate for him to shoot off some Roman Candles in the midst of his speech, or fire his AK into the air and ululate joyously.

remarkable restraint.

read "boring". even pz had to post a clip from the original frankenstein movie along with this "announcement" just to get up to speed.

re: ak's and ululation: muslim scientists don't seem to be involved here.

It's the first synthetic genome, not the first synthetic cell. All the membranes and sub cellular organelles that this "synthetic cell" has were inherited from a donor cell. I will be most impressed when we will someday construct a truly synthetic cell from only parts. However, stitching together a megabase of DNA and getting into a cell is a major technological achievement.


A totally new kind of cell? I'm sure it's been very thoroughly analyzed from an environmental impact point of view, since this is SCIENCE so it must be AWESOME! What could possibly go wrong?

This part of the NY Times article describing Venter's work suggests that there is less here than it seems:

The genome Dr. Venter synthesized is copied from a natural bacterium that infects goats. He said that before copying the DNA, he excised 14 genes likely to be pathogenic, so the new bacterium, even if it escaped, would be unlikely to cause goats harm.
Dr. Venter’s assertion that he has created a “synthetic cell” has alarmed people who think that means he has created a new life form or an artificial cell. “Of course that’s not right — its ancestor is a biological life form,” said Dr. Joyce of Scripps.
Dr. Venter copied the DNA from one species of bacteria and inserted it into another. The second bacteria made all the proteins and organelles in the so-called “synthetic cell,” by following the specifications implicit in the structure of the inserted DNA.
“My worry is that some people are going to draw the conclusion that they have created a new life form,” said Jim Collins, a bioengineer at Boston University. “What they have created is an organism with a synthesized natural genome. But it doesn’t represent the creation of life from scratch or the creation of a new life form,” he said.

I hope calling him "god" doesn't add to the confusion.


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