The genome is now read AND write.
Just a few years after decoding the human genome, Craig Venter et al are making history again! Today Venter issued a public statement at the JCV Institute annoucing the creation of a cell controlled by a synthetic genome...
With what appears to be a frighteningly common computer the team has designed a chromosome, assembled it using very simple chemicals and inserted it into a bacterium. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, they could eventually watch as the synthetic genome kicked out the host's original genetic material, and reboot the cell which now divides with the new genome.
So this is the first self-replicating organism governed by a synthetic code. For those of you who care about definitions, it's not synthetic life really -it uses living material like the cell's cytoplasm etc. We're not there yet. Moreover, what is really artifical is the method used to assemble the genome, because indeed the genome itself is almost a copy-pasted version of a living organism's genome.
Well almost, but not quite!
And that's the best part: hidden in the genetic code of this synthetic bacterium, the team has "hand-written" three citations. One of these is the James Joyce citation of this post:
"To live, to err
, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life."
They also wrote a list of more than 40 researcher's names and...a website address! (I know, you need this website address. I do too, so stay tuned.)
Venter simply inspires me. And he's a very active ecologist whose groundbreaking research could well be our salvation. I can only hope he becomes president someday!