News / Science & Technology

Scientists Control Cell With Synthetic Genome

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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid