Friday, October 05, 2007

Mycoplasma laboratorium coming soon?

Back in June 2007, IPBiz discussed an article in Science entitled "Attempt to Patent Artificial Organism Draws a Protest" (316 Science 1557). On Oct. 6, Ed Pilkington writes on Craig Ventner in the article I am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer:

[Ventner] has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.

The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming.(...)Using lab-made chemicals, they have painstakingly stitched together a chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code.

Pilkington continues: The DNA sequence is based on the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium which the team pared down to the bare essentials needed to support life, removing a fifth of its genetic make-up. The wholly synthetically reconstructed chromosome, which the team have christened Mycoplasma laboratorium, has been watermarked with inks for easy recognition.

It is then transplanted into a living bacterial cell and in the final stage of the process it is expected to take control of the cell and in effect become a new life form.

Pilkington notes: Bacteria could be created, [Ventner] speculates, that could help mop up excessive carbon dioxide, thus contributing to the solution to global warming, or produce fuels such as butane or propane made entirely from sugar.

"We are not afraid to take on things that are important just because they stimulate thinking," he said. "We are dealing in big ideas.


from patentdocs:

Craig Venter's colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute show no signs that vocal criticism of their work in synthetic biology has made a dent in their determination to "create life" (see "Playing the Bioterror Card in the Synthetic Biology Debate"). They report in this week's Science Express (an online journal of pre-publication posted papers) that by successfully chemically synthesizing an entire bacterial chromosome, they have taken the next step in their efforts to create "life" is a test tube (see Gibson et al., "Complete Chemical Synthesis, Assembly, and Cloning of a Mycoplasma genitalium Genome," abstract - full version of article available to subscribers only).


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