If you’re a biologist, this is a very big deal. Robert Lee Hotz reports for the Wall Street Journal:
Heralding a new era in biology, scientists for the first time have created a synthetic cell, completely controlled by man-made genetic instructions, which can survive and reproduce itself, researchers at the private J. Craig Venter Institute announced Thursday.
“We call it the first synthetic cell,” said genomics pioneer Craig Venter, who oversaw the project. “These are very much real cells.”
Created at a cost of $30 million, this experimental one-cell organism opens the way to the manipulation of life on a previously unattainable scale, several researchers and ethics experts said. Scientists have been altering DNA piecemeal for a generation, producing a menagerie of genetically engineered plants and animals, but the ability to craft an entire organism offers a new power over life, they said.
The accomplishment, documented in the peer-reviewed journal Science, may stir anew nagging questions of ethics, law and public safety about artificial life that biomedical experts have been publicly debating for more than a decade.
“This is literally a turning point in the relationship between man and nature,” said molecular biologist Richard Ebright at Rutgers University, who wasn’t involved in the project. “For the first time, someone has generated an entire artificial cell with pre-determined properties.”…
[continues in the Wall Street Journal]