Saturday, May 22, 2010
Sim-Life... For Real
(Picture from here.)
The Second Big Thing that happened this week is the creation of an synthetic bacteria.
No, I don't mean fiddling around with an existing bacterial. I mean a fully functional artificial bacterial genome.
Craig Venter has been working on this problem for some time. His approach to artificial life is to create a synthetic bacterial genome and implant it in a host cell where the original DNA has been removed. The cell machinery itself is not synthetic.
Once the DNA was placed in the host cell, the cell behaved as it had been programmed to do by the synthetic DNA and not according to the DNA of the original host cell. The cell has replicated successfully.
This approach to synthetic life solves a piece of the problem: creation and transfer of a working synthetic genome.
The genome in question, though created in the lab, derives from a living system: Mycoplasma capricolum. The target cellular host is also a Mycoplasm. It is not a genome created from scratch to a particular purpose.
There is corresponding research into the smallest possible genome: the bare essential genome that can be used as a pattern for true synthetic life. Carsonella, for example, has only 182 genes and 160,000 DNA base pairs. The artificial chromosome used by Venter's team was a million base pairs. Carsonella, however, is a parasite. A recent nanoorganism, dubbed ARMAN, has been discovered in northern California. (See also here.) Its genome has about a million base pairs-- more comparable to Venter's chromosome.
It could be that Venter's team is pushing down towards the lower limit of a viable genome.
Articles on the work:
Wall of Idiots
James David Manning. And here.
Lies about Kagan.
Rand Paul and here
National Republican Congressional Committee
Douglas Hughes, R candidate for CA governor
Links of Interest
Earthworms don't just eat dead things
Japan launches Akatsuki probe to venus
Sexual deceit in antelopes
Birds don't like organic seeds
BP tries again
Solar Homesteading Videos
Satay peanut butter sandwich
Terracotta home composter
Your First Robot
Garden rain barrels
Resin cast parts
5 minute bottle brush
Bucket bee hive