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#349191 - 06/30/07 10:37 AM Build your own species
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!
Prolific

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA
From the Baltimore Sun -

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/health/bal-te.venter29jun29,0,5049830.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines

"Scientists at a Rockville biotechnology institute say they have completely replaced the DNA of one bacterium with that of another, effectively changing its species. The experiment could open the door to production of artificial organisms whose original genetic material is replaced entirely by man-made DNA, the researchers said. That way, they believe, they can program bacteria to produce useful metabolic products, such as new biofuels.

Critics said the experiment raises concerns about the unknown risks of artificial organisms and the emerging science is too loosely regulated. The scientists were led by J. Craig Venter, a biotech maverick and entrepreneur who once competed with the publicly funded Human Genome Project to map the human genome, a race that ended in a tie in 2003.

In his team's experiment, Venter said, the bacterium that received new DNA began acting like the donor species, which confirmed the success of the transfer. "This is equivalent to changing a Macintosh computer to a PC by inserting a new piece of software," he said Wednesday in a telephone news conference.

The findings of the experiment, which took place at the J. Craig Venter Institute, were published online yesterday by the journal Science. Venter's group and others are trying to determine the minimum number of genes that bacteria need to survive. Then, separately, they want to construct simple, man-made DNA in the lab so scientists could add desirable genes to the bare-bones synthetic DNA and use that to replace the bacteria's DNA.

Such bacteria, the theory goes, would follow human marching orders and be useful in fields such as medicine and energy production. Genetically modified organisms are already used to manufacture drugs and other products, but they're produced by changing only small sections of DNA. In contrast, whole genome transplantation might allow scientists to make more significant genetic changes to bacterial DNA or design artificial organisms from scratch.

Venter said wholesale replacement of an organism's genome with synthetic DNA might avoid the need to disable undesirable genes that interfere with the cells' desired function. It would also allow scientists to build DNA from the ground up, he said, giving them more control over cellular function. Venter acknowledged that the research is still in its early stages but said the results were promising - particularly as the experiment involved swapping DNA isolated from all other cellular material. Scientists worry that such "naked" DNA might not flourish in a new cell because it would lack certain helper proteins.

"We want to be sure the DNA itself could boot up the new cell," Venter said. "The fact that we can do this with naked DNA and that it doesn't require accessory proteins is a huge enabling step for this field."

Venter and the company he founded, Synthetic Genomics, have applied for patents related to the creation of artificial organisms. His company signed a contract with London oil giant BP this month to research new clean energy technologies. Arthur Caplan, chairman of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, saw both promise and peril in Venter's work.

"The techniques Venter has perfected are going to result in some very important products," he said. "We're not there yet, this is a proof of concept." But he cautioned that attempts to create synthetic organisms raise some ethical concerns. "We don't really have in place an oversight system for this type of technology," he said. "We need to ensure that microbes aren't going to escape into the air or down the drain. We also need to be alert to the fact that this technology can make bad bugs rather than useful bugs."

Eckard Wimmer, a genetic researcher at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said concerns about the possibility of creating artificial life might be premature, fueled by Venter's high profile rather than real risk. Wimmer said Venter's team has "superb scientists," but his "knack for blowing his horn loudly" could cause unwarranted alarm."
_________________________
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#349192 - 06/30/07 03:06 PM Re: Build your own species [Re: MattJ]
Cord Offline
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Registered: 01/13/05
Posts: 11399
Loc: Cambridge UK.
I work around people who can do this sort of stuff everyday, its impressive and weird and scary all at once. I remeber talking with this professor on night shift and he was explaining that we were within 70 years of being able to create a tiny, fully functional, expanding universe in a lab- from (little) big bang onwards. he then went into the quantum physics of it and the concept of scale and other stuff. I really only got a tiny hint of what he was on about and it made me feel a bit queasy trying to assimilate the enormity of being told, in casual conversation, that man would be a god within a century.
Mary Shelly was a visionary, not a writer of fiction.
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Don't let the door hit ya' where the good lord split ya'
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#349193 - 06/30/07 05:09 PM Re: Build your own species [Re: Cord]
Dauragon c mikado Offline


Registered: 12/09/04
Posts: 1246
Loc: Oxford, England
So by the sounds of things they are effectively splicing DNA?
I wonder what this will hold for the human race?
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The way of the warrior is a resolute acceptance of death. -Musashi

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#349194 - 06/30/07 08:43 PM Re: Build your own species [Re: MattJ]
Mr_Heretik Offline
Veteran

Registered: 05/20/05
Posts: 1074
Loc: Bronx NY, USA
I just hope something epic like this, whether good or bad, happens during my lifetime.

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#349195 - 06/30/07 08:52 PM Re: Build your own species [Re: Mr_Heretik]
Leo_E_49 Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 02/24/05
Posts: 4117
Loc: California
I once watched a video of a lecture hosted by the Google company discussing whether this technology could be used for the purposes of making humans effectively immortal. Interesting stuff...
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#349196 - 06/30/07 10:13 PM Re: Build your own species [Re: Mr_Heretik]
Lucky_shinobi Offline
Newbie

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 5
Quote:

I just hope something epic like this, whether good or bad, happens during my lifetime.




I just want anything epic to happen. I desire anything that could possibly break loose the confines of such a mundane, unrewarding existence

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#349197 - 06/30/07 10:15 PM Re: Build your own species [Re: Lucky_shinobi]
Lucky_shinobi Offline
Newbie

Registered: 06/30/07
Posts: 5
Quote:

I just want anything epic to happen. I desire anything that could possibly break loose the confines of such a mundane, unrewarding existence




and yes i reside in the U.S. home of the brave and the loss of purpose

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#349198 - 06/30/07 10:49 PM Re: Build your own species [Re: Dauragon c mikado]
MattJ Offline
Free Rhinoplasty!
Prolific

Registered: 11/25/04
Posts: 15634
Loc: York PA. USA
Quote:

So by the sounds of things they are effectively splicing DNA?
I wonder what this will hold for the human race?




The implications of this experiment are both incredibly exciting and downright terrifying. This level of control over such a fundamental step of biology has the possibility to do amazing things. I truly can't even imagine the areas this could impact - weapons, medicines, organ replacement, new species, old species revived, etc......

Incredible. This was science fiction when I was younger. Man is on the verge of becoming something else.
_________________________
"In case you ever wondered what it's like to be knocked out, it's like waking up from a nightmare only to discover it wasn't a dream." -Forrest Griffin

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#349199 - 06/30/07 10:50 PM Re: Build your own species [Re: Leo_E_49]
Taison Offline
The Forum Dragon
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/06/05
Posts: 3629
Loc: BKK, Thailand
I hope they get that thing working ASAP.

Immortality is something I've been craving for a LONG time. Plus a few enhancements here and there isn't too bad.

-Taison out
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I got two fists.. Don't make me use my head as well!

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#349200 - 06/30/07 11:45 PM Re: Build your own species [Re: Taison]
crablord Offline
th3 t4sty sn4ck

Registered: 08/10/06
Posts: 1530
Loc: Australia, QLD, GC
haha, immortality would suck.

thats some amazing stuff, like the other guy that posted I can only hope it happens in my lifetime.

Quote:


"Scientists at a Rockville biotechnology institute say they have completely replaced the DNA of one bacterium with that of another




possibly dangerous? what if a new strand of virus outbreaks or something
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