Reported today in the Telegraph UK:
Scientists could create the first new form of artificial life within months after a landmark breakthrough in which they turned one bacterium into another.
Craig Venter likened the process to ‘changing a Macintosh computer into a PC by inserting a new piece of software’.
In a development that has triggered unease and excitement in equal measure, scientists in the US took the whole genetic makeup – or genome – of a bacterial cell and transplanted it into a closely related species.
This then began to grow and multiply in the lab, turning into the first species in the process. The team that carried out the first “species transplant” says it plans within months to do the same thing with a synthetic genome made from scratch in the laboratory.
If that experiment worked, it would mark the creation of a synthetic lifeform.
The research article being cited is from yesterday in the online version of the journal Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1144622), entitled “Genome Transplantation in Bacteria: Changing One Species to Another “. The abstract:
As a step toward propagation of synthetic genomes, we completely replaced the genome of a bacterial cell with one from another species by transplanting a whole genome as naked DNA. Intact genomic DNA from Mycoplasma mycoides large colony (LC), virtually free of protein, was transplanted into Mycoplasma capricolum cells by polyethylene glycol-mediated transformation. Cells selected for tetracycline resistance, carried by the M. mycoides LC chromosome, contain the complete donor genome and are free of detectable recipient genomic sequences. These cells that result from genome transplantation are phenotypically identical to the M. mycoides LC donor strain as judged by several criteria.
Today’s Science News of the Week article referencing this research article can be found here.