Geneticist Creates First Synthetic Cell

Designer microbes could eventually eat pollution
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Suggested by Disillusioned
Posted May 20, 2010 3:46 PM CDT
Founder and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute, USA, Craig Ventor speaks with the Associated Press at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Friday Jan. 25, 2008.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
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(Newser) – It sounds a little Frankenstein-esque, but a prominent US geneticist has created what he calls the first synthetic living cell. Craig Venter built the genome of a bacterium from scratch and implanted it in a cell, a development seen as an important step toward the creation of artificial life, the Guardian reports. Venter and his team spent 10 years and $40 million on the project, and the results are appearing in Science.

Venter imagines creating microorganisms that can eat greenhouse gas emissions or crank out vaccines. Though plenty of skepticism exists about this approach, as the New York Times notes here, many scientists see the experiment as a milestone in biology. "Venter is creaking open the most profound door in humanity's history, potentially peeking into its destiny," one Oxford professor said. "He is going towards the role of a god: creating artificially life that could never have existed naturally."

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