Home pageNews of ScienceSynthetic biology: New - synthetic -versions of life

Synthetic biology: New - synthetic -versions of life

Date: 15.9.2008 

With broadening knowledges of genetics of bacteria we will be able to create a unique form of life. It's proved by effort and results of many research laboratories. Their genome will be compose from a serie of segments originated from different species or they will be completly new. Their potential is to become a component of future industrial world.

Synthetic Genomics is a scientific field with aim to create unique life form. It's focused on the next powerful step of synthesizing and programming DNA by developing and utilizing the latest advances in biology. It combines methods for the chemical synthesis of genes and gene pathways and whole chromosomes from chemical components of DNA with computational techniques to design it. These methods allow scientists and engineers to construct genetic material that would be impossible or impractical to produce using more conventional biotechnological approaches.

Two different approaches

The J. Craig Venter Institute scientists are aiming to craft a "minimal genome"- the smallest group of genes an organism needs to survive and function - and insert it into an empty cell. This approach is described by some as "top-down", meaning that he is taking an existing organism and changing it to create something new.

J. Craig Venter Institute's plan is to re-synthesise minimal genome of Mycoplasma genitalium from simple chemicals, stitch them together and create an artificial organism.

The top-down and bottom-up teams have something in common: they are mimicking what nature does already.

Steen Rasmussen from Los Alamos National Laboratory belongs to the latter team. Rather than turning to biological cell design as his starting point, he is looking to see if there might be simpler structures that he can use as the basis of his synthetic organism. He is creating a cell in which the essential parts, such as genes and metabolic chemicals, are stuck to the surface of it rather than held inside like a traditional cell.

Synthetic biologists think that although life created by a top-down approach may be imminent, synthetic life built from the bottom up is a few more years away - at least five to 10.


"One thing people are trying to do is to use cells as factories to make drugs or fabricate structures," said Ron Weiss from Princeton University, who is focussing on programming biological organisms, and believes that the technology could also have biomedical applications.

Scientists foresee many potential positive applications including new pharmaceuticals, biologically produced ("green") fuels, and the possibility of rapidly generating vaccines against emerging microbial diseases.

"The field of synthetic genomics has the potential for groundbreaking scientific advances, including the development of alternative energy sources, and the production of new vaccines and pharmaceuticals," said J. Craig Venter, pioneer in genome sequencing, founder and president of J. Craig Venter Institute.


Jiri Polinek

"Synthetic Genomics":[ http://www.syntheticgenomics.com]
"J. Craig Venter Institute":[ http://www.jcvi.org]
"MIT":[ http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2005/syntheticbio.html]
"BBC News":[ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7041353.stm]




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