Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have created a synthetic cell that can survive and reproduce itself according to an artificial DNA sequence, promising designer genomes with which researchers can produce sophisticated artificial organisms.
The new bacterial cell, "Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0," is the result of a 15-year, $30 million effort by genetics pioneer Craig Venter. The study, led by the institute's Dan Gibson, is reported in the May 21 edition of the journal Science.
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.
The synthetic genome was transplanted into empty Mycoplasma mycoides bacteria, which were transformed into a new species. The creature's software-like name, JCVI-syn1.0, reflects its status as the first of its kind.
To prove the genome is synthetic and to assert their ownership, the scientists even "watermarked" it by forming encoded words with the alphabet of genes and proteins. They included three quotations, among them 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." They also added a URL and e-mail address to allow researchers who decode the words to notify the institute. … Read more