ROCKVILLE, Md., May 20 (UPI) — U.S. scientists announced Thursday they have constructed the world’s first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell.
Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute, a not-for-profit genomic research organization, said they synthesized the 1.08 million base pair chromosome of a modified Mycoplasma mycoides genome. The scientists said their synthetic cell is the proof of principle that genomes can be designed by computer, chemically made in a laboratory and transplanted into a recipient cell to produce a new self-replicating cell controlled only by the synthetic genome.
Writing in the opinion section of the journal Nature, one leading synthetic biology scientist — University of Pennsylvania Professor of bioethics Arthur Caplan — called the accomplishment “one of the most important scientific achievements in the history of mankind.” But former University of Florida Professor Steven Benner, creator of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, cautioned the technique could resurrect long extinct ancestral bacteria.
“For nearly 15 years Ham Smith, Clyde Hutchison and the rest of our team have been working toward this publication today — the successful completion of our work to construct a bacterial cell that is fully controlled by a synthetic genome,” said J. Craig Venter, the institute’s founder and senior author on the research.
“We have been consumed by this research, but we have also been equally focused on addressing the societal implications of what we believe will be one of the most powerful technologies and industrial drivers for societal good,” he added. “We look forward to continued review and dialogue about the important applications of this work to ensure that it is used for the benefit of all.”
The historic research is reported in the online journal Science Express and will appear in an upcoming print issue of the journal Science.
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