- Apr 23, 2009
- Reaction score
- everywhere and nowhere
Synthetic Life? I Think Not - Science and Tech - The AtlanticWhat was actually done and what does it mean? The chemical synthesis of an entire bacterial genome, a very long string of DNA, about a million units in length, is a significant technical achievement. The DNA molecule was stitched together by joining about one thousand smaller fragments each about one thousand units long. To assemble these in the correct order, without significant error, is a great feat of modern organic chemistry. It is the largest single molecule ever made. Now that it has been done, it can be done again with different genomes.
Step two was the replacement of a natural genome with the replica. This also ranks as a significant achievement. The natural defenses bacteria have to protect themselves from invading DNA had to be overcome. Done once, this, too, can be done again.
Has man indeed made life? I think not. The replica is indistinguishable in form and function from the original. Were it not for marker tags introduced into the replica DNA, there would be no difference at all. It is as if one were to create a copy of Michelangelo's David, accurate down to the last crack and imperfection except for the signature, and call it new. Is the organism so created useful? No more so than the original, most famous for being small, with no known use outside the laboratory.