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Scientists play God and form (mimick?) life

Some of you may have already heard the news, but I was in total shock to hear this morning that scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute, including Venter himself, have formed synthetic life. The study was released in the journal Science last week and  (published in journal Science).

From http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/22/vatican-on-synthetic-cell-creation-interesting/

Vatican had praise Saturday for this week's announcement that scientists had created the world's first synthetic cell, calling it an "interesting result" that could help cure disease.

In an article Saturday, the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano called it "important research" and "the work of high-quality genetic engineering." But it said the scientists who created the cell - led by Craig Venter, pictured - had not created life, just "replaced one of its motors."

Harvard scientists have cleared a key hurdle in the creation of synthetic life, assembling a cell’s critical protein-making machinery in an advance with both practical, industrial applications and that advances the basic understanding of life’s workings.

George Church, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School and member of Harvard’s Origins of Life Initiative, reported the creation of billions of synthetic ribosomes that readily create a long, complex protein called firefly luciferase.

http://harvardscience.harvard.edu/foundations/articles/taking-a-stride-toward-synthetic-life

NYTIMES:

Venter creates synthetic life http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/21/science/21cell.html

“This is a philosophical advance as much as a technical advance,” he said, suggesting that the “synthetic cell” raised new questions about the nature of life.  he told the NYTimes at a press conf. last thursday.

In response to the scientific report, President Obama asked the White House bioethics commission on Thursday to complete a study of the issues raised by synthetic biology within six months and report back to him on its findings. He said the new development raised “genuine concerns,” though he did not specify them further.

Dr. Venter took a first step toward this goal three years ago, showing that the natural DNA from one bacterium could be inserted into another and that it would take over the host cell’s operation. Last year, his team synthesized a piece of DNA with 1,080,000 bases, the chemical units of which DNA is composed.

The genome Dr. Venter synthesized is copied from a natural bacterium that infects goats.

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