Scientists on the Brink of Artificial Life

Synthetic genomes close to creating new bacteria
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2007 7:30 AM CDT
Secretary Of Energy Holds Press Conference Announcing Advances In DNA Research   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – The first artificial life could be created within months as researchers emboldened by "species transplant" experiments prepare to insert synthetic genomes into a host bacterium, the Daily Telegraph reports. Maryland scientists have been replacing one bacterium's DNA with another, transforming the host  into the invader, and now plan to do the same with a lab-created genome.

One scientist likened the transformation to "changing a Macintosh computer into a PC by inserting a new piece of software." The team hopes to use the technology to engineer microorganisms capable of producing biofuels or eating toxic waste, but they acknowledge their research raises serious ethical questions and has the potential to launch a new generation of bioweapons. (Read more science stories.)