Tag Archives: artificial life

Scientists Create Artificial Life

Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell.

The researchers constructed a bacterium’s “genetic software” and transplanted it into a host cell.

The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species “dictated” by the synthetic DNA.

The advance, published in Science, has been hailed as a scientific landmark, but critics say there are dangers posed by synthetic organisms.

The researchers hope eventually to design bacterial cells that will produce medicines and fuels and even absorb greenhouse gases.

The team was led by Dr Craig Venter of the J Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Maryland and California.

He and his colleagues had previously made a synthetic bacterial genome, and transplanted the genome of one bacterium into another.

Now, the scientists have put both methods together, to create what they call a “synthetic cell”, although only its genome is truly synthetic.

Dr Venter likened the advance to making new software for the cell.

The researchers copied an existing bacterial genome. They sequenced its genetic code and then used “synthesis machines” to chemically construct a copy.

Dr Venter told BBC News: “We’ve now been able to take our synthetic chromosome and transplant it into a recipient cell – a different organism.

“As soon as this new software goes into the cell, the cell reads [it] and converts into the species specified in that genetic code.”

The new bacteria replicated over a billion times, producing copies that contained and were controlled by the constructed, synthetic DNA.

“This is the first time any synthetic DNA has been in complete control of a cell,” said Dr Venter.

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Scientists expect to create life in next 10 years

Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they’re getting closer.

Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of “wet artificial life.”

“It’s going to be a big deal and everybody’s going to know about it,” said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. “We’re talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways — in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict.”

That first cell of synthetic life — made from the basic chemicals in DNA — may not seem like much to non-scientists. For one thing, you’ll have to look in a microscope to see it.

“Creating protocells has the potential to shed new life on our place in the universe,” Bedau said. “This will remove one of the few fundamental mysteries about creation in the universe and our role.”

And several scientists believe man-made life forms will one day offer the potential for solving a variety of problems, from fighting diseases to locking up greenhouse gases to eating toxic waste.

Bedau figures there are three major hurdles to creating synthetic life:

  • A container, or membrane, for the cell to keep bad molecules out, allow good ones, and the ability to multiply.
  • A genetic system that controls the functions of the cell, enabling it to reproduce and mutate in response to environmental changes.
  • A metabolism that extracts raw materials from the environment as food and then changes it into energy.

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Will Artificial Organism with Advanced Group Intelligence Evolve?

Remember Michael Crichton’s science-fiction novel, “Prey”? Well,  researchers at the University of York have investigated large swarms of up to 10,000 miniature robots which can work together to form a single, artificial life form. The multi-robot approach to artificial intelligence is a relatively new one, and has developed from studies of the swarm behavior of social insects such as ants.

Swarm robotics is a field of study based on the supposition that simple, individual robots can interact and collaborate to form a single artificial organism with more advanced group intelligence.

As a part of an international collaboration dubbed the “Symbiotic Evolutionary Robot Organisms” project, or “Symbrion” for short, researchers are developing an artificial immune system which can protect both the individual robots that form part of a swarm, as well as the larger, collective organism.

The aim of the project is to develop the novel principles behind the ways in which robots can evolve and work together in large ‘swarms’ so that – eventually – these can be applied to real-world applications. The swarms of robots are capable of forming themselves into a ‘symbiotic artificial organism’ and collectively interacting with the physical world using sensors.

The multi-robot organisms will be made up of large-scale swarms of robots, each slightly larger than a sugar cube, which can dock with each other and share energy and computing resources within a single artificial-life-form. The organisms will also be able to manage their own hardware and software, they will be self-healing and self organizing.

Professor Alan Winfield, a member of the project team, explains, “A future application of this technology might be for example where a Symbrion swarm could be released into a collapsed building following an earthquake, and they could form themselves into teams searching for survivors or to lift rubble off stranded people. Some robots might form a chain allowing rescue workers to communicate with survivors while others assemble themselves into a ‘medicine bot’ to give first aid.

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Biologists on the Verge of Creating New Form of Life

A team of biologists and chemists is closing in on bringing non-living matter to life.

It’s not as Frankensteinian as it sounds. Instead, a lab led by Jack Szostak, a molecular biologist at Harvard Medical School, is building simple cell models that can almost be called life.

Szostak’s protocells are built from fatty molecules that can trap bits of nucleic acids that contain the source code for replication. Combined with a process that harnesses external energy from the sun or chemical reactions, they could form a self-replicating, evolving system that satisfies the conditions of life, but isn’t anything like life on earth now, but might represent life as it began or could exist elsewhere in the universe.

While his latest work remains unpublished, Szostak described preliminary new success in getting protocells with genetic information inside them to replicate at the XV International Conference on the Origin of Life in Florence, Italy, last week. The replication isn’t wholly autonomous, so it’s not quite artificial life yet, but it is as close as anyone has ever come to turning chemicals into biological organisms.

“We’ve made more progress on how the membrane of a protocell could grow and divide,” Szostak said in a phone interview. “What we can do now is copy a limited set of simple [genetic] sequences, but we need to be able to copy arbitrary sequences so that sequences could evolve that do something useful.”

By doing “something useful” for the cell, these genes would launch the new form of life down the Darwinian evolutionary path similar to the one that our oldest living ancestors must have traveled. Though where selective pressure will lead the new form of life is impossible to know.

“Once we can get a replicating environment, we’re hoping to experimentally determine what can evolve under those conditions,” said Sheref Mansy, a former member of Szostak’s lab and now a chemist at Denver University.

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Synthetic Biology: Scientists Engineer Memory In Yeast Cells

Scientists synthesize memory in yeast cells

Harvard Medical School researchers have successfully synthesized a DNA-based memory loop in yeast cells, an experiment that marks a significant step forward in the emerging field of synthetic biology.After constructing genes from random bits of DNA, researchers in the lab of Pamela Silver, a faculty member in Harvard Medical School’s Department of Systems Biology, not only reconstructed the dynamics of memory, but also created a mathematical model that predicted how such a memory “device” might work.

“Synthetic biology is an incredibly exciting field, with more possibilities than many of us can imagine,” says Silver, lead author of the paper to be published in the Sept. 15 issue of the journal Genes and Development. “While this proof-of-concept experiment is simply one step forward, we’ve established a foundational technology that just might set the standard of what we should expect in subsequent work.”

Like many emerging fields, there’s still a bit of uncertainty over what, exactly, synthetic biology is. Ask any three scientists for a definition, and you’ll probably get four answers.

Some see it as a means to boost the production of biotech products, such as proteins for pharmaceutical uses or other kinds of molecules for, say, environmental cleanup. Others see it as a means to creating computer platforms that may bypass many of the onerous stages of clinical trials. In such a scenario, a scientist would type the chemical structure of a drug candidate into a computer, and a program containing models of cellular metabolism could generate information on how people would react to that compound.

Either way, at its core, synthetic biology boils down to gleaning insights into how biological systems work by reconstructing them. If you can build it, it forces you to understand it.

The news articles on artificial life and synthetic biology are popping out of the ground like mushrooms.

This is a booming field, which holds enormous potential.

Artificial Life Another Step Closer

Scientists a step nearer to creating artificial life

To the untrained eye, the tiny, misshapen, fatty blobs on Giovanni Murtas’s microscope slide would not look very impressive. But when the Italian scientist saw their telltale green fluorescent glint he knew he had achieved something remarkable – and taken a vital step towards building a living organism from scratch.The green glow was proof that his fragile creations were capable of making their own proteins, a crucial ability of all living things and vital for carrying out all other aspects of life.

Though only a first step, the discovery will hasten efforts by scientists to build the world’s first synthetic organism. It could also prove a significant development in the multibillion-dollar battle to exploit the technology for manufacturing commercially valuable chemicals such as drugs and biofuels or cleaning up pollution.

The achievement is a major advance for the new field of “synthetic biology”. Its proponents hope to construct simple bespoke organisms with carefully chosen components. But some campaigners worry about the new technology’s unsettling potential and argue there should be a moratorium on the research until the ethical and technological implications have been discussed more widely.

One of the field’s leading lights is the controversial scientist Craig Venter, a beach bum turned scientific entrepreneur who is better known for sequencing the human genome and scouring the oceans for unknown genes on his luxury research yacht. The research institute he founded hopes to create an artificial “minimal organism”. And he believes there is big money at stake.

In an interview with Newsweek magazine earlier this year, Dr Venter claimed that a fuel-producing microbe could become the first billion- or trillion-dollar organism. The institute has already patented a set of genes for creating such a stripped-down creature.

Artificial Life Likely in 3 to 10 Years

Artificial Life Likely in 3 to 10 Years

Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they’re getting closer.Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of “wet artificial life.”

“It’s going to be a big deal and everybody’s going to know about it,” said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. “We’re talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways—in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict.”

That first cell of synthetic life—made from the basic chemicals in DNA—may not seem like much to non-scientists. For one thing, you’ll have to look in a microscope to see it.

“Creating protocells has the potential to shed new light on our place in the universe,” Bedau said. “This will remove one of the few fundamental mysteries about creation in the universe and our role.”

And several scientists believe man-made life forms will one day offer the potential for solving a variety of problems, from fighting diseases to locking up greenhouse gases to eating toxic waste.

Our Technological Future – Mixed Bag #21

Luddites across the globe… eat your heart out!

(And yes, I deliberately put all the cool stuff on top to piss off luddites.)

Be sure to watch this ‘ere video. It’ll blow your socks off.

Especially if your a Trekkie. Then you simply cannot afford to not watch it.

Microsofts Multi Touch Surface

DARPA’s Better Bionic Arm: Our Most Limb-Like Prosthetic

Bear robot rescues wounded troops

Move to create less clumsy robots

Drivers Unwanted: MIT ‘Robocar’ takes a spin

Japanse man gives robot a woman’s touch

First 100% Solar Powered Community In California Opens

Genome of DNA Pioneer Is Deciphered

Dutch try to grow enviro-friendly meat in lab

Single spinning nuclei in diamond offers stable quantum computing building block

Human Stem Cell Treatment Restores Motor Function in Paralyzed Rats

Japanese Researchers Develop Creepiest Robot Ever

Scientists Move Closer to Turning Skin Cells Into Tissues

New drug helps lose weight without going hungry

Serious diseases genes revealed

Large study links genes to 7 serious diseases

Autism symptoms reversed in lab

Scientists Use Embryonic Stem Cells to Regenerate a Heart

Scientists Reverse Mental Retardation in Mice

Gene therapy awakens the brain despite blindness from birth

Maryland Professor Creates Desktop Supercomputer

Monitoring the Brain in 3-D

Brain Boosters

First artificial life ‘within months’

Potential cure for HIV discovered

Designer Enzyme Cuts HIV Out of Infected Cells

Nanosoccer debuts at RoboCup 2007

Cloned Pigs Help Scientists Towards A Breakthrough In Alzheimer’s

Scientists find way to separate HIV virus from cells

Scientists find drug to banish bad memories

Parallel computing = 100 time faster than current PC

Are You Ready For The Future?

Are You Ready For The Future?

Now imagine what life might be like in future. Go ahead. Close your eyes.

You’ll be healthier than ever and you’ll potentially live much longer, thanks to individualized medicine made possible by genetic testing and a growing understanding of human biology.

Diabetics will undergo stem cell therapy to replace the islet cells in their pancreas. Or perhaps they’ll just get a whole new pancreas, grown from their own stem cells.

People will recover from traumatic accidents, through either biological or technical means. Artificial limbs will provide tactile sensory feedback directly to the nervous system, and will be made, partially or completely, from organic materials.

Nanotechnology will provide tiny machines that will revolutionize industry and manufacturing, and will also be deep inside our bodies, repairing damage we may never realize exist.

We’ll be living in a world filled with machines, which will be far smarter than ever before. Perhaps they’ll be smarter than we are. Robots and smart machines will be everywhere, doing all manner of work, from basic manual labor to designing the next generation of technology. Some of those machines will be moving around, looking very much like the beings that created them. Some of them will be living in your home, perhaps helping to take care of your children, or your elderly parents.

Alternative energy sources will help power an energy hungry world. Genetic designers may be creating artificial life forms that could solve energy needs and cleaning up environmental pollution.

In all fairness and balance, the source article also goes into some possible concerns for the future.

A Stimulating Collection Of Blogposts

Dick Pelletier (aka ‘futuretalk’) maintains a blog over at www.betterhumans.com, that’s basically about “Our Technological Future”. And that just so happens to be the name of the blog you’re reading right now. 😉

Dick’s writings are, just like Ian Pearson’s, completely devoid of any argument for why our future might pan out as he describes. But don’t be too quick to dismiss Dick Pelletier as naive and over-optistic… whenever I ask him to provide sources for his claims, he’s always able to provide them. The guy certainly has done his research.

The future scenario’s about which he writes are quite consistent with the ones that other futurologists (Kurzweil, Pearson, people on Singularity fora, etc.) predict. Dick has written about topics such as:

  • Nanotechnology’s impact in the near future
  • Healthcare in 2020
  • Memory drugs
  • The future of the Internet
  • Artificial life
  • Uploading
  • Human-machine mergers
  • Physical immortality
  • Artificial wombs
  • Chip implants to allow control of machines
  • Robots
  • Autonomous cars
  • Telepresence
  • Gene therapy
  • The Singularity

And probably much more…

Even though Dick Pelletier has the tendency to fall into repetition from time to time, his blogposts still make for a stimulating, feel-good sort of read.