Synthetic Life
Synthetic Life

DNA

Craig Venture’s Success and New Questions


The media is awash with news that Craig Venture – the scientist who almost single-handedly decoded DNA – claims to have created synthetic life. What the Venture team actually did is to insert a different operating system into a living cell. They copied the DNA sequence from one type of cell and inserted it into a different type of cell, which is now reproducing.  In effect, they recoded the cell.

 

This can not be called creating “synthetic life” since it was not created “from scratch,” but it is a giant step forward.  In principle, it demonstrates that the DNA coding of cells can be changed, opening the possibility of designing an endless stream of clever micro-organisms that could do manufacture anything from drugs and energy to biological weapons. 

 

Claims that this proves life is merely a mechanical combination of the right instructions are greatly overblown.  The bodies of these cells are extremely complex organisms in their own right that have evolved over billions of years, and contain a high level of intelligence needed to put the DNA code to work. It’s also presumptuous to think that DNA is all there is to life. That’s like saying the operating system creates the messages in a computer.

 

See TechCast’s forecast on Synthetic Life for more.

 

image