Using off-the-shelf chemical compounds, scientists for the first time have constructed the entire genome of a bacterium, a key step toward their ultimate goal of creating synthetic life forms. The man-made DNA was nearly identical to the natural version on which it was based — with minor modifications to identify it and render it harmless to people. The research team at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., is now trying to insert the artificial DNA inside a living cell with the hope that it will take over its host and become the first synthetically created, self-replicating organism. Researchers in the nascent field of synthetic biology hope to use the method as a blueprint for designing microscopic creatures that can produce renewable fuels, medicines and industrial products. “It’s a cookbook for how to make big things,” said Andrew Ellington, a biochemist at the University of Texas at Austin, who was not connected with the study.
Los Angeles Times
A Step Closer to Creating Life Out of Chemical Soup