Artificial Life to Be Created in the Lab; Controversial Figure: Genetics Researcher Craig Venter
Byline: Lucy Ballinger, Fiona MacRae
THE first artificial life form may be created within weeks, it wasreported last night.
American scientists have made a synthetic chromosome built out of laboratorychemicals. From that they believe they will be able to create cells which candivide and multiply - displaying all the characteristics of life.
A chromosome is one of the threadlike packages of genes and other DNA in thenucleus of a cell. Different life forms have different numbers and shapes ofchromosomes.
The controversial researcher Craig Venter and a team of 20 scientists havealready constructed a synthetic chromosome using artificial DNA. The sequencehas 381 genes and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code.
Now this artificial chromosome, Mycoplasma laboratorium, is to be transplantedinto a living bacterial cell. It is expected to take control of the cell - andtherefore become a new life form.
The result would bring scientists a step closer to creating 'designer'microbes. These lifeforms could lead to the creation of bacteria which couldhelp mop up excessive carbon dioxide and help combat global warming or providebiofuel or remove carbon.
The researchers have already transformed one type of bacteria into anotherusing a similar technique.
They managed to swop the entire genome - the genetic software containinginformation for life - of a bacterial cell with one from a different, butrelated, bug.
Given a completely new set of genes, the bacterium's species was effectivelychanged. …