Scientists Build First Man-Made Genome; Synthetic Life Comes Next

Scientists Build First Man-Made Genome; Synthetic Life Comes Next

Scientists have built the first synthetic genome by stringing together 147 pages of letters representing the building blocks of DNA.

The researchers used yeast to stitch together four long strands of DNA into the genome of a bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium. They said it’s more than an order of magnitude longer than any previous synthetic DNA creation. Leading synthetic biologists said with the new work, published Thursday in the journal Science, the first synthetic life could be just months away — if it hasn’t been created already.

“We consider this the second in our three-step process to create the first synthetic organism,” said J. Craig Venter, president of the J. Craig Venter Institute where scientists performed the study, on Thursday during a teleconference. “What remains now that we have this complete synthetic chromosome … is to boot this up in a cell.”

With the new ability to sequence a genome, scientists can begin to custom-design organisms, essentially creating biological robots that can produce from scratch chemicals humans can use. Biofuels like ethanol, for example.

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