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Biotech Software Technology

Software Lets Scientists Assemble DNA 149

Velcroman1 writes "Biochemical engineers can now download a piece of software and with a few simple clicks, assemble the DNA for new life forms through their laptops. 'With the proper computer tools, biologists can write their own genetic code — and then turn that code into life,' said biochemist Omri Amirav-Drory, who founded Genome Compiler Corp., the company that sells the software. He demonstrated at a coffee shop early one morning by manipulating a bacteria's genes on his laptop. The synthetic biology app is still in beta; on Jan. 15, the company added an undo feature and support for new DNA file formats. Building creatures is increasingly like word processing, it would seem. But such is the strange reality in the age of cheap genome sequencing, DNA synthesizing and 'bioinformatics.'"
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Software Lets Scientists Assemble DNA

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  • Misleading title (Score:4, Informative)

    by subanark ( 937286 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:14PM (#43027113)

    Wow, that is really a misleading title for those in the field. "Assemble" generally refers to solving the jigsaw puzzle of putting digitized DNA fragments generated from a sequencing machine together to form contigs which can eventually be assigned to a chromosome.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequence_assembly [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Sounds great (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @03:20PM (#43027189) Homepage Journal

    DNA is a programming language after all...

    no it isn't. I'm not sure if you are ignorant in genetic, programming, or just stupid.

  • not so ubiquitous (Score:4, Informative)

    by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @05:47PM (#43028483)
    The article breezily mentions creating a genome from scratch, but it's not really that easy. Say you wanted to use the services mentioned in the article to create smallpox, a 186 kb (kilobase) virus, from scratch. Genome compiler software would be a way to design the project on a computer, but that's about it. The services mentioned in the article will certainly synthesize oligonucleotides into genes (100 to 10000 base pairs) and put those genes or operons into vectors and ship them to you, but building a whole virus would be a long involved project and would get special attention. Even having them just make parts of smallpox genes would probably throw up red flags in the software; it would be pretty trivial for checks like that to be automatic. But say you get your genes or operons in the mail. You would then need to assemble all of those bits into one genome. That involves a lot of intermediary steps of cutting and pasting, replicating (first by a PCR machine, then in host organisms when the pieces get too big for PCR), purifying, and then cutting and pasting again. Fairly standard molecular biology, but harder with such long pieces of DNA. Then it's off to the biosafety level 5 lab to package the DNA into chickenpox viral capsids or find some other way to get your viral genome into human cells intact. Then you'll need to culture the virus in (presumably) human cells, yet another skill set.

    All in all you would need to have access to a lot of the equipment and skills found in molecular biology and virology labs to get the job done, not just mail order DNA.

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