From the UK Telegraph today:
Artificial life will be created ‘within months’ as genome experts claim vital breakthrough
Scientists are only months away from creating artificial life, it was claimed yesterday.
Dr Craig Venter – one of the world’s most famous and controversial biologists – said his U.S. researchers have overcome one of the last big hurdles to making a synthetic organism.
The first artificial lifeform is likely to be a simple man-made bacterium that proves that the technology can work.
But it will be followed by more complex bacteria that turn coal into cleaner natural gas, or algae that can soak up carbon dioxide and convert it into fuels.
They could also be used to create new vaccines and antibiotics.
The prediction came after a breakthrough by the J Craig Venter Institute in Maryland.
First artificial life ‘within months’
Scientists could create the first new form of artificial life within months after a landmark breakthrough in which they turned one bacterium into another.
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 scientists want to create new kinds of bacterium to make new types of bugs which can be used as green fuels to replace oil and coal, digest toxic waste or absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.