Big deal: Venter creates first synthetic cell

Here’s what I’d consider a Big F***ing Deal (in the words of  Joe Biden): the J Craig Venter Institute is reporting it has created the first synthetic cell that can survive and reproduce itself. The DNA for this bacterial cell (Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0) was synthesized from DNA fragments. The bacterium is a new species not produced in nature: hence, the name “JCVI-syn1.0.” The code for the cell is very akin to software. Presumably there will be versions 1.1, 2.0, and so on. This is a lot like baking a cake from scratch, from the raw ingredients.

The team of 25 researchers took Mycoplasma capricolum bacteria and completely rewrote its genetic code of more than 1 million base pairs of DNA. The data was sequenced as chemical DNA fragments and sewn together using yeast and E. coli bacteria.

To make no mistake that the genome was synthetic the scientists encoded quotations in the DNA including a line from “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce: “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.”

So the era of fully human-designed and engineered organisms is at hand. Venter, et al.,  have been working for several years to create new life forms from the minimal elements required for life. It’s happening.

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