Creation of artificial life brought a step closer by DNA transplant. ‘Craig Venter, the controversial biologist who led the private effort to map the human genome, has moved closer to his goal of creating the first artificial life form by replacing the entire genetic code of one microbe with that of another.
The groundbreaking experiment has in effect turned a bacterium into a different species by substituting its DNA with that of a close relative. The success opens the way for doing the same thing with a genome that has been man-made from scratch, to create synthetic life.
Dr Venter has long been researching ways to make artificial organisms, with a view to creating new species of bacteria that produce environmentally friendly fuels such as hydrogen. This month he was said to have applied for a patent on a DNA sequence described as the “minimal genome” – the bare essential genes that can support life.’
J. Craig Venter Institute Press Release: JCVI Scientists Publish First Bacterial Genome Transplantation Changing One Species to Another. ‘Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) today (June 28, 2007) announced the results of work on genome transplantation methods allowing them to transform one type of bacteria into another type dictated by the transplanted chromosome. The work, published online in the journal Science, by JCVI’s Carole Lartigue, Ph.D. and colleagues, outlines the methods and techniques used to change one bacterial species, Mycoplasma capricolum into another, Mycoplasma mycoides Large Colony (LC), by replacing one organism’s genome with the other one’s genome.
“The successful completion of this research is important because it is one of the key proof of principles in synthetic genomics that will allow us to realize the ultimate goal of creating a synthetic organism,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., president and chairman, JCVI. “We are committed to this research as we believe that synthetic genomics holds great promise in helping to solve issues like climate change and in developing new sources of energy.”
Genome transplantation is an essential enabling step in the field of synthetic genomics as it is a key mechanism by which chemically synthesized chromosomes can be activated into viable living cells. The ability to transfer the naked DNA isolated from one species into a second microbial species paves the way for next experiments to transplant a fully synthetic bacterial chromosome into a living organism and if successful, “boot up” the new entity. There are many important applications of synthetic genomics research including development of new energy sources and as means to produce pharmaceuticals, chemicals or textiles.