Researcher develops artificial life

From Guardian Unlimited :

Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.

The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming.

Mr Venter told the Guardian he thought this landmark would be “a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before”.

The Guardian can reveal that a team of 20 top scientists assembled by Mr Venter, led by the Nobel laureate Hamilton Smith, has already constructed a synthetic chromosome, a feat of virtuoso bio-engineering never previously achieved. Using lab-made chemicals, they have painstakingly stitched together a chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code.

The DNA sequence is based on the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium which the team pared down to the bare essentials needed to support life, removing a fifth of its genetic make-up. The wholly synthetically reconstructed chromosome, which the team have christened Mycoplasma laboratorium, has been watermarked with inks for easy recognition.

It is then transplanted into a living bacterial cell and in the final stage of the process it is expected to take control of the cell and in effect become a new life form. The team of scientists has already successfully transplanted the genome of one type of bacterium into the cell of another, effectively changing the cell’s species. Mr Venter said he was “100% confident” the same technique would work for the artificially created chromosome.

Well well, the spector of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is indeed escaping from science-fiction to science fact finally. It was only going to be a matter of time before somebody finally accomplished this. And if Venter manages to implant his artificial chromosome into a cleaned out bacterium and it reproduces, it’ll prove that artificial organisms can be manufactured.

My Christian friends will certainly not like this development and actually deny that the creatures are life at all, just some kind of simulcrum, or “golem” at best. They will certainly say that without divine blessing of spirit, there can be no life.

There is sure to be ethical questions to be answered here, one of which is “where will be the line drawn?” Meaning if certain governments aquire the means to create artificial DNA, will they make super-soldiers, super-viruses or any other super weapon of mass destruction that makes hydrogen bombs and sarin nerve gas look like firecrackers and stinkbombs in comparison?

We are walking a fine line here. Mankind is once again, as it has done in previous cycles dared knock on the door of godhood. As a blog-friend once stated when he was describing G.W. Bush, I’m going to describe the maturity level of mankind in handling these awesome technologies; “…like a drunken chimpanzee with a loaded shotgun inside a warehouse packed to the rafters with fireworks .”

Original Article 

Hat tip to Christopher of From the Left

12 responses

  1. I can never think of clever sayings of my own, I usually have to borrow from others. My sense of humor is too dry I guess.

    I’m sure geezer-dude won’t mind though.

  2. Uber Highwayman | Reply

    Don’t put yourself down, Marine, society needs it’s wallflowers, too! Ha-ha!

    Yeah, I’m afraid that I’ll have to be among the dissenters (big surprise, huh?) and dispute it’s authenticity as a true life form, in the sense that they still had to use extant life to bring ‘Franky’ into existence.

    If they HAD developed a true and independent entity, then they’re falling way behind in comparison with what plain and simple, dumb-assed chance did zillions of years ago in a mud puddle in an electrical storm. And it did it with all of the necessary modifications, adaptations, mutations necessary for as yet unforeseen and unencountered environmental aberrations built in!

    Hmmm… maybe there IS a “mother” nature to have provided all of that nurturing. Certainly not a Father!

    *Shudder*

    😉

  3. I don’t think of myself as a wallflower, just “semi-retired”. 😉

    My brain isn’t as quick on the draw as it used to be, just as quick as it has to be.

    Around you that’s no small task. I have to exercise my poor old brain housing group around you all of the time!

    I should be grateful for that I suppose. At least I don’t doze off like Geez…ZZZZzzzz*. Oh hell!

    I knew you wouldn’t like what Venter is doing. I don’t know if one could qualify it as life either, that’s for philosophers smarter than I am to hash over I guess.

    My concern is the HUGE potential for weaponization. Like we didn’t have enough already!

  4. I was rather stunned to see this article.

    Of course, if we can manage to keep such technology out of the hands of the military, maybe it can be used for good? As in some sort of medical application?

  5. That’s the hope here Christopher and the main reason Venter gives for creating this technology. It would work wonders for medicine.

    But like all tech, some asshole government or corporation will aquire it for weapons, or sell it to the criminal pharmaceutical companies and charge outrageuous prices so ordinary people don’t have access to a life-saving therapy.

    Business as usual, sell out to the highest bidder probably.

    OT but I watched Torchwood Saturday. It’s better than Doctor Who by far. I thought the cyberwoman was hot!!

  6. Uber Highwayman | Reply

    “I don’t think of myself as a wallflower, just “semi-retired”.”

    Droll. Very droll. Ha. Ha. Ha. 🙄 You’re a witty jarhead today, old friend! Just for that, you’re not allowed to go play in any of Duhbya’s wars!

    And you can forget about Duhhhbya not getting his hands on any new genetic research, Chris. The military have a heavy presence in anything that could even REMOTELY be associated with war. If you can think it, it’s possible, and eligible for appropriation and exploitation. The same band of pirates that run the war machine run research and development… in the sense that these projects have to be funded. If you’re dealing with government funding, you’re dealing with banks. Big banks!

    What’s a Torchwood?

  7. Torchwood is a sci-fi show on the Sci-Fi Channel and the BBC America. It’s about these people who fight alien and paranormal threats. Old theme with a modern twist. Actually has some drama to it, pretty good.

    Anyway, it’s an anagram of Doctor Who, a real old long running sci-fi show from England. The same people produce it.

    I know, the Brits may be socialist-elitists, but they make good science-fiction. I still read H.G. Wells, despite his politics.

  8. Oh yeah, Bu$hco can eat sh*t and die a horrible, lingering death like he’s inflicting on the Iraqis.

    I’m actually surprised he’s finding people to fight his little pogrom against the Muslims. These are the people who really want to be there.

    The kool-aid must be pretty tasty.

  9. …….zzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZ*#@$&%

    OMG…Dumbah’s blowing up the place again….Bwahahahaha

    Yaknow Dad, this dude playing with the gonad mycoplasma scares the bejeezuz outa me. Garth Nicolsonwill be pretty freaked too because it’s one of the mycoplasmas that he talks about concerning gulf War Syndrome. If Garth has to deal with this genetically altered designer bacteria along with all the others he might go out of his tree and the vets will lose touch with one of their only contacts with reality.

    BTW: Dr. Who rocks, especially the first one

  10. I’m delighted you got to see Torchwood!

    It’s my new favorite program and I have a crush on the lead, Capt. Jack Harkness.

  11. G: I’m sure the Vets from this Iraq debacle are already infected with depleted uranium poisoning and other ‘designer’ bugs. The system is already flooding with sick vets, I’ve seen it myself. Venter’s research has the potential to do good, but like UH said, if the government funds the research, you bet your arse that the military-industrial-complex has their dirty mitts into it.

    Oh yeah, my fav among the old Doctor Who series was the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker. I loved the scarf!

    Christopher: Capt. Jack is a hot guy, that’s for sure. But I still love the ladies, and those gals he has with him are smokin’! 😉

  12. G: I’m sure the Vets from this Iraq debacle are already infected with depleted uranium poisoning and other ‘designer’ bugs. The system is already flooding with sick vets, I’ve seen it myself. Venter’s research has the potential to do good, but like UH said, if the government funds the research, you bet your arse that the military-industrial-complex has their dirty mitts into it.

    Oh yeah, my fav among the old Doctor Who series was the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker. I loved the scarf!

    Christopher: Capt. Jack is a hot guy, that’s for sure. But I still love the ladies, and those gals he has with him are smokin’! 😉

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