Synthetic DNA Comes to Life

As breakthrough nears, questions multiply like cells
By Caroline Zimmerman,  Newser User
Posted Dec 17, 2007 9:56 AM CST
Scientists in Maryland have built the world's first handcrafted chromosome with plans to insert it into a cell in the coming year.   (
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(Newser) – Scientists are on the verge of creating new life forms from synthetic DNA and already sparking ethical questions, the Washington Post reports. Researchers can make entire chromosomes from sugars, phosphates, and nitrogen-based compounds, then insert the DNA into a host cell. The new codes can transform bacteria or yeast into biofuel-making machines, but that makes some people queasy.

One company has already reprogrammed E. coli to produce alternative fuel from sugar cane and corn syrup; it will sell  for $1.25 a gallon. But with no federal oversight and companies jousting for patents, some worry that anyone will be able to make DNA from directions on the Internet. "The danger is not just bio-terror but bio-error," says a recent report by an advocacy group.