News / Science & Technology

Scientists Control Cell With Synthetic Genome

TEXT SIZE - +
Jessica Berman

In a groundbreaking achievement, scientists have created an artificial genome capable of controlling and replicating a living cell.  Researchers say the breakthrough paves the way for specially engineered bacteria to that can help solve a wide range of environmental, energy and human health problems.  

Using laboratory chemicals, scientists have produced what they are calling the world's first "synthetic cell."

The groundbreaking work was led by geneticist J. Craig Venter of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Maryland. "We are here today to announce the first synthetic cell -- a cell made by starting with the digital code in the computer, building the chromosome from four bottles of chemicals, assembling that chromosome in yeast, transplanting it into a recipient bacterial cell and transforming that cell into a new bacterial species," he said.

Venter says researchers investigating the genetic foundations of life came up with the idea of manufacturing a bacterial chromosome 15 years ago.  

Scientists pieced together the genetic material of the bacterium M. mycoides by inserting short strands into yeast that used its repair enzymes to stitch the DNA into one long string of genetic material.

It took three such insertions to assemble the M. mycoides genome, which scientists then transferred into a second bacterium called Mycoplasm capricolum.  Researchers say the transplanted DNA began functioning as a normal genome within M. capricolum, directing the production of M. mycoides proteins and conferring new, M. mycoides properties to the host bacterium.

In order to distinguish their synthetic genome from a natural one, Venter says researchers inserted "watermarks" into the new genetic code.  These included three famous quotations, letters spelling out the names of each of the project's 46 different contributors. "And we also built in a website address so that if somebody decodes the code within the code within the code, they can send an email to that address.  So it's clearly distinguishable from any other species," he said.

Now that they have shown it is possible to control a cell with a synthetic genome, researchers say they will try to use the technology to solve complex environmental and energy problems.  For example, Venter says his institute has partnered with the petroleum company ExxonMobil to develop new strains of algae that can capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or from concentrated sources, like the ocean, to make hydrocarbons that can go into their refineries to make carbon-neutral gasoline and diesel fuel.

In the medical field, Venter says, the technology might allow scientists to make vaccines in a matter of days instead of months. "We think these tools can affect vaccines to diseases that haven't been possible to date - things where the viruses rapidly evolve, such with rhinovirus.  Wouldn't it be nice to have something that actually blocked common colds?  Or more importantly, HIV where the virus evolves so quickly - the vaccines that are made today can't keep up with those evolutionary changes," he said.

In a series of commentaries in the journal Nature, scientists from a variety of disciplines and institutions hailed the creation of a synthetic genome as an important, historic advance in biology.  But many noted that the accomplishment does not represent the creation of new life because the synthetically modified cell is made up primarily of natural genetic structures.

The paper by Craig Venter and his colleagues on their creation of the first synthetic genome is published this week in the journal Science.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid