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Biotech Science

Team Claims Synthetic Life Feat 112

Posted by Zonk
from the it's-alive-it's-aliiiiiive dept.
gertvs writes "According to the BBC scientists in the US have taken a step towards producing life from scratch in the laboratory by having successfully transplanted an entire genome from one bacterium cell to another. This technique could possibly lead to the creation of 'designer' microbes producing fuel or help cleaning toxic waste. 'The ultimate plan is to stitch together artificial chromosomes, proteins and other building blocks with the aim of jumpstarting their designer microbe to life. But Dr. [Craig] Venter concedes that this may be a long way away, but he says he has taken an important key step towards that goal. His team, essentially, snatched the body of another life-form and invaded it with a new genetic code. This, he says, will be a key tool in testing the artificial chromosomes - or DNA bundles - he plans to make. '"
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Team Claims Synthetic Life Feat

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  • by Umbral Blot (737704) on Saturday June 30, 2007 @05:28AM (#19698197) Homepage
    Reminds me of a certain cartoon: http://www.angryflower.com/goinaf.gif [angryflower.com]
  • Patents.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by king-manic (409855) on Saturday June 30, 2007 @05:30AM (#19698201)
    Wait didn't another firm patent artificial life. The gall of these people, working hard to create something new. Thats simply un-American. They should really make vague patents wait for someone else to do the work and sue.
  • i am... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cosmocain (1060326)
    ...almost sure, that we will se a whole lot of paired headlines.

    "designed microbe is able to clean water from toxic waste" and a few months/year later: "water-cleaning microbe causes " and some random illness/problem. genetic engineering is full of possibilities, it's the humans that haven't shown responsible behaviour with new technologies.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This technique could possibly lead to the creation of 'designer' microbes producing fuel or help cleaning toxic waste.

    Oh come on! Have an imagination! This could make some really killer bioweapons! Or we could mine deer for oil. Convert puppies into kittens. Give George Bush a brain. Think of the implications!
  • Penrose (Score:2, Interesting)

    by headkase (533448)
    If Penrose turns out to be right (The Emperor's New Mind) and quantum-like operations are needed to truly reproduce intelligence then inevitably at some point in the future we will have artificial intelligence even if we have to program some meat to use the same building materials nature used with us.
    Other uses could be to adapt humans to non-terran environments. Base-line in brain just tailored to an alternate environment.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      by king-manic (409855)
      If Penrose turns out to be right (The Emperor's New Mind) and quantum-like operations are needed to truly reproduce intelligence then inevitably at some point in the future we will have artificial intelligence even if we have to program some meat to use the same building materials nature used with us.
      Other uses could be to adapt humans to non-terran environments. Base-line in brain just tailored to an alternate environment.


      What part of that statement was interesting?

      If the bum down the street turns out to b
    • Re:Penrose (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Cyberax (705495) on Saturday June 30, 2007 @07:06AM (#19698461)
      Penrose was probably smocking crack when he wrote this book.

      You definitely don't NEED quantum computers to reproduce intelligence. That's because IF cells contain quantum computers, then they must work in cycles: load initial data, process it, read data. Reading computation results stops quantum computer (collapses it to one state). Even Penrose admits that quantum computers can't work more than a fraction of second in a living cell.

      Quantum computers can be simulated by classical computers (they're computationally equivalent), so quantum computers are not NEEDED to simulate human mind.

      However, quantum computers might make good accelerators for neural processing (there are several publications on this).
      • by TheLink (130905)
        Well if quantum computing is good at parallel processing, then it would be good for animals to simulate multiple "what if" situations rapidly.

        For example a background process considering possible escape routes: "what if I jumped on to (various portions of) that branch or other branches, would they hold my weight, would they lead to better escape routes?". All considered in parallel.

        Then the animals start simulating each other (predicting the decisions of a potential competitor/predator is very useful), and
        • by Cyberax (705495)
          Nope, Penrose's quantum computers work on a sub-cellular level.

          Thinking about branches requires work of more than one neuron, so quantum computers are not really significant here (they can't talk to each other through cell walls).
          • by TheLink (130905)
            Neurons definitely talk to each other and at least some are more sophisticated than you seem to think, even though they may be very specialized.

            Some people even have a "Halle Berry" neuron - if they see the name "Halle Berry" or her picture or even a caricature, that neuron will fire.

            See: http://www.physorg.com/news4703.html

            Maybe that part is a bit like Bingo. Patterns are passed through a huge bunch of neurons, and one of them shouts out and says "Bingo: Halle Berry!", another says "Bingo: Catwoman", and t
            • by Cyberax (705495)
              How neurons talk to each other is irrelevant - you can't use classical channels to connect quantum computers. And I can't imagine any quantum channel working across multiple cell walls.

              QCs (if they are present inside neurons) are probably advantageous, but it doesn't mean that they will be the fundamental barrier for creating 'artificial brain'. However, it may be practically impossible to build artificial brain without some sort of QC accelerator (i.e. like videocards - you can build games which use only C
          • I doubt my own personal "thinking mechanism" is larger than my nervous system. You claim it can't be smaller than two neurons. Your basis for this lower limit presumes an equivalence between mind and Turing Machine, and that sub-cellular QM effects don't "talk" through synapses.
      • Quantum computers can be simulated by classical computers (they're computationally equivalent), so quantum computers are not NEEDED to simulate human mind.

        That's not quite true, Quantum computation (perhaps not in the sense your talking about) is more powerful than classical computing in one respect. That is though Quantum randomness a Quantum computer can produce an endless supply of real random numbers. A classical computer can only produce pseudo-random numbers, a way round this is to include a large enough supply of random numbers in the initial configuration. It's not what Penrose was talking about I know but...

        • by Cyberax (705495)
          AFAIR my university's course, Turing machine with random number generator is computationally equivalent to a common Turing machine.
          • AFAIR my university's course, Turing machine with random number generator is computationally equivalent to a common Turing machine.

            Your university course is wrong? Here's a problem a common Turing machine can't solve:

            Using a program of length n produce n+1 "really" random numbers.

            Quantum events are as far as I understand the only source of "really" random numbers we have and are just plain weird. The problem comes in part because we don't have a clear definition of random.

            Anyway, I've not read this article yet but it looks like it could be of interest: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v318/n6041/ab s/318041a0.html [nature.com] .

            • by Cyberax (705495)
              What is 'really random number'? Can you define it?

              We can have pseudorandom numbers behaving exactly like real 'random' numbers (though it requires unlimited resources as you get more and more numbers). I.e. you won't be able to distinguish pseudorandom generator and real random source.
              • What is 'really random number'? Can you define it?

                A random number source is that which produces a (infinite? or unbound finite) series of numbers which can not be produce by any deterministic algorithm in space less than the size of the number series... Basically the numbers produced by the generator have a high Komolgorov complexity.

                We can have pseudorandom numbers behaving exactly like real 'random' numbers (though it requires unlimited resources as you get more and more numbers). I.e. you won't be able to distinguish pseudorandom generator and real random source.

                That's not so. The Kolmogorov complexity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolmogorov_complexity [wikipedia.org] of a string of pseudo random numbers is very low, by definition I can build a finite length program to produce an infinite string

                • by Cyberax (705495)
                  It's true that complexity of any pseudorandom generator is finite.

                  However, you can't readily tell it from its output. It might well be possible, that the Universe uses a simple formula to determine the outcome of quantum events.

                  In any case, we can just add hardware-based random number generator to classical computer simulating quantum events.
                  • It's true that complexity of any pseudorandom generator is finite. However, you can't readily tell it from its output

                    I take a large sample of it's output, I enumerate all possible programs shorter than this output, I run these programs and find the smallest program that outputs this string and then halts.

                    It might well be possible, that the Universe uses a simple formula to determine the outcome of quantum events.

                    It's possible, though as I said, it's my understanding that most modern physicist wouldn'

      • Even Penrose admits that quantum computers can't work more than a fraction of second in a living cell.

        That point isn't a critique of his hypothesis. IIUC, Penrose's model of the human mind simply includes quantum mechanics as an ingredient in it's operation. You might as well claim that my Athlon isn't really computing because every time its innards clock through an op it shuts down (loses conciousness?) for 1/2,000,000,000th of a second.

        You definitely don't NEED quantum computers to reproduce intelligen

  • "This technique could possibly lead to the creation of 'designer' microbes producing fuel or help cleaning toxic waste."

    Well it's perfect that we could just program a microbe to solve all our messy problems just like snapping my fingers.

    Now.. some mutations have been observed when the microbe was released in the wild. Of course, releasing in the wild means that your creation kinda gets a life on its own. Some mutations have been observed.

    Mutation one turns the form of liquid metal that wants to kill John Ko
    • by Aranykai (1053846)
      I think your confusing real-world mutation with movie/sci-fi mutation. They are hardly the same.
      Mutations are almost always:
      1.Useless
      2.Harmful in some way to the creature
      3.Lost in the next generation(assuming the creature can breed)

      So, a little more 5 legged frog, and a little less sharks with freakin laser beams.
      • by suv4x4 (956391)
        I think your confusing real-world mutation with movie/sci-fi mutation. They are hardly the same.
        Mutations are almost always:
        1.Useless
        2.Harmful in some way to the creature
        3.Lost in the next generation(assuming the creature can breed)

        So, a little more 5 legged frog, and a little less sharks with freakin laser beams.


        You're boring, you know that? But, ok, I'll accept your science ways, and take the 5 legged frog. But only if can laugh in an evil voice and has an army of minions trying to take over the world.
      • I think your confusing real-world mutation with movie/sci-fi mutation. They are hardly the same. Mutations are almost always: 1.Useless 2.Harmful in some way to the creature 3.Lost in the next generation(assuming the creature can breed)

        Yes, but mutations are obviously sometimes beneficial to an organisms survival. I think the point is that if we create a completely artificial gene/set of genes/organism then we don't really know what trajectory it's evolution will follow in the natural world. Organisms en

    • Re:Mutation (Score:4, Funny)

      by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Saturday June 30, 2007 @07:06AM (#19698467)
      But I bet we could engineer a microbe to kill those first microbes.

      "No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death."
  • This is very exciting. I took a class from someone who ended up working at the Venter Institute, so I'm pumped to see that they've made major progress.

    On the other hand, the field of Artificial Life is small. Something on the order of a thousand other people are qualified to talk about this intelligently. So my hopes for discussion are pretty much nil.
    • But did your professor/teacher tell you how much of an egocentric ass Craig Venter is?
      • Yes.

        Wolfram still compared negatively to Venter. :-)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          You have to be talking about Stephen Wolfram.

          OK, Craig Venter is humble compared to that moron. Smart - but still a moron.
        • You know, what happened to the scientist that just did their research and made their contribution to society without all the ego self-masturbation, self promotion, self-written bios that basically compare themselves to God? I understand that a certain amount of self promotion is sometimes necessary when forming companies, etc. But these guys take it to levels that would make Lord Farquar jealous.
          • I'm a mathematician, so I'm naturally slightly arrogant. Sort of. I mean, I think I have a fairly reasonable estimate of my skills in mind, hardly ever get "put in my place" by someone with better skills, know when to cede an argument, etc. But I'm confident when I say something with mathematical content.

            When I took the class on the Philosophy of Life (focusing specificially on defining life for the purposes of knowing if an artificial creation is "actually" alive, which involved studies in computation,
    • On the other hand, the field of Artificial Life is small. Something on the order of a thousand other people are qualified to talk about this intelligently. So my hopes for discussion are pretty much nil.

      Especially since one of the best thinkers about it isn't around anymore, except for her words...

  • by arakon (97351) on Saturday June 30, 2007 @05:59AM (#19698297) Homepage
    what a Virus already does. They took DNA, and implanted it into another cell and the cell ran the DNA instruction set... Just like cells are wont to do. Seems like a pretty "Cut & Paste" idea to me; hardly "creating Life", or even steps toward it.

    We'll have Artificial Intelligence (synthetic life by my standards) I think, long before we're actually engineering proteins and building an original base DNA sequence of our own making and creating the cell to run it from scratch.

    At which point our machine overlords will take care of the rest. :P
    • We'll have Artificial Intelligence (synthetic life by my standards) I think, long before we're actually engineering proteins and building an original base DNA sequence of our own making and creating the cell to run it from scratch.

      I highly doubt it. Think of the relative complexities of a computer capable of simulating the human brain (and by that I mean capable of running several hundred million threads, each of which runs an interruptable O(2^n) algorithm quickly enough to respond to external stimuli) to
      • by joto (134244)

        We'll have Artificial Intelligence (synthetic life by my standards) I think, long before we're actually engineering proteins and building an original base DNA sequence of our own making and creating the cell to run it from scratch.

        I highly doubt it. Think of the relative complexities of a computer capable of simulating the human brain (and by that I mean capable of running several hundred million threads, each of which runs an interruptable O(2^n) algorithm quickly enough to respond to external stimuli) to

    • by wisebabo (638845) on Saturday June 30, 2007 @07:51AM (#19698611) Journal
      A virus (DNA or RNA) when injected into a cell utilizes the existing cellular machinery to make mass copies of its own genetic code, encase them in proteins that its genetic code has transcribed and explodes the cell to allow the newly created viral particles out. In a few cases (retroviruses) the virus becomes reverse transcripted into the cell's DNA and can stay there hidden (like HIV) for a long time, sometimes even reproducing with the cell (a possible source of "junk" DNA or even some cancers). Notice that a virus has far less than the minimum number of genes to create the cellular mechanisms for life let alone reproduction.

      Venter's group has taken a cell and replaced ALL of the original DNA with the newly introduced DNA. (I believe a virus replaces nothing, it merely adds its own genetic code). While the newly introduced DNA comes from another bacterium, there is no reason to think that the DNA from a completely "man-made" source couldn't be introduced instead. By introducing fewer and fewer genes, Venter (and others) hope to find the "minimum" number of genes needed to make a living creature.

      Once this minimal life is created is new, possibly never before seen in nature, genes can be introduced one at a time. Because these genes are added to a "clean" slate, their functionality and efficiency can be controlled and optimized. Kinda like a much more powerful version of the transgenic mice they use in research where they selectively eliminate just ONE gene from the mouse strain to see what its effect is. I believe they have strains for all/almost all the thousands of genes in mice so they can evaluate them for various genetic ailments, disease resistance and whatnot. (Harvard was the first to get a patent on the genetic code of one of these mice: the first patented life. Go Harvard!)

      Here instead of removing one gene from the entire set (to an admittedly MUCH more complex organism), Venter will be able to control ALL the genes in his bacteria. This will greatly reduce/eliminate unwanted interactions (because the "unneeded" genes have been eliminated) allowing R&D to go much more quickly. Thus the optimism on creating oil producing bacteria. (Please note that "unneeded" refers to our needs not the bacteria, we can make a bacteria that is alive but is utterly dependent on vital nutrients that "wild" bacteria make themselves. Since our bacteria is simpler, we will use it not the wild version.)
      • by plunge (27239)
        Speigelman's monster was already pretty damn small: the smallest reproducing/evolving version had, what, like 48 base pairs TOTAL or something? True, it needed to live in an environment where it's enzyme and raw materials already existed, but still, I don't see an "organism" getting much smaller than THAT.
      • by eli pabst (948845)
        Here instead of removing one gene from the entire set (to an admittedly MUCH more complex organism), Venter will be able to control ALL the genes in his bacteria. This will greatly reduce/eliminate unwanted interactions (because the "unneeded" genes have been eliminated) allowing R&D to go much more quickly.

        Exactly. You could do the same thing that Venter is doing using a virus to infect bacteria, but the real goal is to be able to strip out all the excess cellular processes that would otherwise be
      • So, basically, they cloned a bacterium?
    • It's even worse than that to be honest. Experiments like this were how we discovered that DNA was the "transforming principle" in organism life. Basically Oswald Avery took a pathogenic (disease causing) strain of bacteria and isolated the DNA then transfered this to a non-pathogenic strain and noted the associated transferal of traits (the non-disease causing strain became disease causing). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oswald_Avery [wikipedia.org] (this was way back in 1928). This is no huge leap as far as I can see. Eve

  • Imaging Ebola that spreads like a flu. Or mosquitos with black widow spider venom. Genetic engineering is probably essential for our long term survival as a species (for example, modern medicine and cultural values sabotage natural selection). But I am not sure we are ready for it at the moment.
    • by delt0r (999393)

      Imaging Ebola that spreads like a flu.
      It can't, it kills the host to quickly. Turns out there are a lot of limits on these sorts of things. If its real deadly, it won't spread very well because everyone who got sick is dead. If it not that deadly the immune system gets time to adapt. Similar arguments apply to mosquito's.

      But I am not sure we are ready for it at the moment.
      So when will we be ready? Maybe this is as good as it gets.
      • by iamacat (583406)
        Well, what do you make of plague and smallpox?
        • by delt0r (999393)
          Or the Spanish flu. 3% fatality rate IIRC. Plague was spread by hygiene issues as much as anything. The same this could not really happen now. I don't mean they can't be bad. But we have survived. Also we are a lot better at medicine now days. So really big plagues are not likely, and +90% bioweapons are probably imposable.
    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      Genetic engineering is probably essential for our long term survival as a species
      Right because there's no other way we could have survived the last few million years.

      (for example, modern medicine and cultural values sabotage natural selection)
      Or do they just change the selection pressures.

       
      • by iamacat (583406)
        Our current selection pressures do not include the ability to be born, live and reproduce without assistance of medicine and technology, let alone forage for food in the wilderness. If technology was suddenly to fail, or if we face an epidemic or political unrest, this could mean the whole humanity going extinct. Even defects we consider benign, like bad teeth or color blindness, would be fatal to a band of survivors trying to form a settlement after a catastrophe.
        • by Kiffer (206134)
          Don't be silly. Plenty of people get by with out that much tech.
          The human race is not going to go extinct from just the loss of technology, barring massive environmental collapse in which case we would probably need our tech to survive.
          Plenty of people around the world get by from day to day using only the level of technology that they themselves, or rather the people in their local area, can support.
          Unless by extinction of the human race you meant the extinction of pampered westerners?
          Sure we might get kno
  • When do I get to start playing God from the comfort of my own home?
  • And one of these days those feet are gonna walk all over you.

    Oh feat, right. As you were.
  • I suppose the synthetic life has got to walk around on something. But when are they going to do the rest of the body?
  • I read the headline as if they had made Silicon based life... synthetic oil being silicon and all.
  • "That chromosome was transplanted, inserted through the cell walls, the cell membrane of a second species and, after several days of growth and cell division, the original chromosome in the cell disappears and we have cells containing only the transplanted chromosome."

    Sounds like somthing out of a science-fiction horror movie.
  • Something tells me that patenting life forms is going to make the code world's problems look rational in comparison.
  • Slashdot title --> "Team Claims Synthetic Life Feat"

    No they don't. From the article....

    "What's in this paper is the result of taking a native chromosome from one species," Dr Venter explained.

    "That chromosome was transplanted, inserted through the cell walls, the cell membrane of a second species and, after several days of growth and cell division, the original chromosome in the cell disappears and we have cells containing only the transplanted chromosome."

    The took genetic material from one species and i

    • by plunge (27239)
      You missed the part about how this was the last big hurdle for implanting a man-sequenced code into a cell. Which is what they are going to do next. So, yes, this IS a big feat in the field of creating synthetic life: according to them, it's pretty much the last piece of the puzzle prior to actually doing it.
  • Technologically: transfer of genome from one cell to another has been done on much more complex level: Dolly the sheep anyone (I claim that complexity of eukyotic cell beats the addtional complexity of inserting DNA vs injecting the nucleus)? True, this is the first time I here about researchers that have induced a bacterium to take up the entire genome of another, related bacterium [sciencemag.org]. But it leaves me in utter bewilderment of how that is "transforming"? Bacterias are much less epigenetic compared to higher f
    • In the study, the researchers removed intact DNA from Mycoplasma mycoides and inserted it into Mycoplasma capricolum. [sfgate.com] That is the same genus. If you compare 16S RNAs of those two species they have 1515 identical nucleotides (one of them has in total 1524, another - 1527 nucleotides). 16S ribosomal RNAs are a standard marker for comparison of species, since ribosomal RNAs are the most universal component of any independently living organsim (that is every single life form except viruses).

      In other terms this
      • "In a sheep, what you're doing is nuclear transfer -- sending in all the machinery ready to roll," he said. "Here, you just send in the blueprint." [sfgate.com] Well, Dr. Ellington, that is quite a bit of exhaggeration. "All the machinery ready to roll"? Like ribosomes, which are "bound to endoplasmic reticulum or freely floating in the cytoplasm"? Give me a break. I think every scientists that talks to media should be banned from government grants for ever (analog of disbarring)
      • by eli pabst (948845)
        About practical implications: is not it much more practical to transform existing bacteria to produce whatever is necessary by adding required features into the genome?

        Depends on what you mean by practical. If you mean easier for us to do, then yes. However, the point is to create a synthetic organism that is engineered to make a single product. So it makes more sense to strip out all of the extraneous genes/processes that are not necessary for production of that compound. As an example, in a standa
        • by mapkinase (958129)
          At the same logic we can make 18 wheelers out of the carton. 95% of the genome is not necessary to produce the target but are necessary to sustain the bacterial colony.
          • by eli pabst (948845)
            95% of the genome is not necessary to produce the target but are necessary to sustain the bacterial colony.

            Not really. If you are designing an organism for a specific purpose then you only need a minimal set for critical life processes and for producing the target compound. Most bacteria have a wide variety of metabolic genes for utilizing various macromolecule nutrients for energy, which are largely unnecessary if you are going to be feeding it a specific nutrient broth, so you can chuck out a bunch
            • by mapkinase (958129)
              I would wait until they will go down on living model organism with such small number of genes, because proving that this gene is involved in that pathway does not prove that it is not involved in other pathways.

              And, again, why is it necessary to strip it down to "minimal" amount of genes?
              • by eli pabst (948845)
                proving that this gene is involved in that pathway does not prove that it is not involved in other pathways.

                The number of pathways known (or unknown) that a given gene is involved in is irrelevant from their point of view. If they can knock out a particular gene and have the organism still grow at the same level and produce compound X, then that gene is unnecessary for their purposes.

                And, again, why is it necessary to strip it down to "minimal" amount of genes?

                Primarily because production of "unne
                • by mapkinase (958129)
                  I do not buy this argument. Bacteria well know for the effective usage of really junk energetic resources. Instead of feeding touchy feely warm and fuzzy stripper bacteria it makes more sense to me to add necessary genes to some tough badass bacteria that can it dirt and make a living on it.
                  • by eli pabst (948845)
                    Bacteria well know for the effective usage of really junk energetic resources

                    Which is exactly why they have genes that are unnecessary for the purposes that Venter's group is targeting it for. In fact part of the patent application describes the medium that they plan on using:

                    The inventors have identified 101 protein-coding genes that are non-essential for sustaining the growth of an organism, such as a bacterium, in a rich bacterial culture medium, such as SP4. Such a culture medium contains all of the salts, growth factors, nutrients etc. required for bacterial growth under laboratory conditions. A minimal set of genes required for sustaining the viability of a free-living organism under laboratory conditions is extrapolated from the identification of these non-essential genes. By a "minimal gene set" is meant the minimal set of genes whose expression allows the viability (e.g., survival, growth, replication, proliferation, etc.) of a free-living organism in a particular rich bacterial medium as discussed above.

                    it makes more sense to me to add necessary genes to some tough badass bacteria that can it dirt and make a living on it.
                    I disagree. The more self-sufficient your bacterium is, the higher the likelihood of it surviving outsi

                    • by mapkinase (958129)

                      The more self-sufficient your bacterium is, the higher the likelihood of it surviving outside of the lab. Plus by that very definition it will produce less output of the target compound than a bacteria which is engineered to be a specialist.


                      This is utter nonsense, which I do not consider necessary to consider for answer.
                    • by eli pabst (948845)
                      This is utter nonsense, which I do not consider necessary to consider for answer

                      LOL, so you apparently know of some strain of bacteria that is capable of violating the laws of thermodynamics? If you have X amount of input energy in the form of nutrients and Y is the amount of energy consumed by the cell for life, then X-Y will equal the amount left over for other things like reproduction or in this case biosynthesis of a compound. In an organism that has extraneous cellular processes such as the abili
            • by mapkinase (958129)
              I have just got a chance to read the popular rendition of the article in Science [sciencemag.org]. Seems to me, that my skepticism is shared by Church (no pun intended):

              Regardless, George Church of Harvard University questions the need for genome transplantation; instead of starting with a minimal genome, he's making useful chemicals by simply adding customized genes to existing species' genomes.

              Call me an extremist, but this looks like Venter's ego trip...

  • ...I won't be terribly impressed until they start cobbling together custom genetic material, instead of just copy-paste from one microbe to another. No disrespect to the scientists - I'm sure even copy-paste's hard to do - but don't call it synthetic life if you didn't create anything original, know what I mean?

    Also, be warned that I will be as scared as I will be impressed when they do write their own software for the hardware.
  • IT'S ALIVE! Wahahahahaha
  • How about this:

    - Take chimp single celled embryo right after fertilization
    - Chimp gene is 99% similar to human, so change the genes that differ in the embryo and make it look exactly like a human embryo (make it look like Dubya's genome.. he won't be convinced otherwise)
    - Will we get a Dubya clone from that embryo ??

    More improtantly, does this mean that any animal can be turned into a human (or any other animal, for that matter ) ?
    • by joto (134244)
      If by "animal", you mean "any life-form that as a zygote look sufficiently similar to what you started with, as a zygote", and if you by "turned into" means "(through a hypothesized theoretical process) replace genetic code inside zygote with genetic code from zygote of wanted result", then the answer is obviously "yes". If you mean in practical terms, the answer is "no". And if you believe that you theoretically can change the zygote of a flatworm into one of Tyrannosaurus Rex, I doubt that it can be done,
  • I thought it said, "Teen Claims Synthetic Life Feast".

    I need another beer.
  • Well, what more proof do you need?

    /me ducks.

  • For the time being it is my belief (personal opinion) that a) life from scratch and b) artificial intelligence are impossible to create. I've never seen any "step toward" those goals even come close to breaking those barriers. Now if something happens I will have to rethink said beliefs. But until then I personally see all the attempts as people wasting their time striving for the impossible. I'm not sure why but it seems like going faster than the speed of light would be an easier goal to me.

    Again just my
  • Transplanting a genome is a great feat but hardly "synthetic life". I suggest toning down the National Enquirer style headlines.
  • OK they've synthesized a couple of the 30K+ chemicals in a cell, albeit one of the more complicated and important. But I dont conisder true synthtic life and the final refutation of "vitalism" until all the chemicals are synthesized.
    Vitalism contends there is some important constitute to life outside of known chemistry and physics. Some "neo-vitalists" claim life can only come from existing life, or some pattern thereof. Others claim mysterious new phsice like quantum microtubes, etc.

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