Scientists have assembled the entire genome of a bacterium from basic chemicals, an important step toward creating a fully artificial organism, Reuters reports. "This entire process started with four bottles of chemicals," says Craig Venter, founder of the institute that did the work. Scientists had previously manufactured the genome for a virus, but this is the first for a bacterium, which are far more complex, notes the New York Times.
The breakthrough is a big step toward the eventual goal in the field of synthetic biology—to design an organism on a computer and use the resultant DNA to produce a man-made creature, the Times notes. Venter hopes one day to create microorganisms that could clean up the environment.