Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Aliiiiiiive!

U.S. scientist have succeeded in creating the first artificial life form.

They've used laboratory chemicals to create synthetic DNA modeled on that of a simple bacteria, modified it, and inserted it into an existing cell. The lab-created genome took it from there, and the new organism is happily replicating itself.

The hope is that organisms can be engineered to produce new fuels, clean up oil spills, produce vaccines faster, and eventually even to interface with computers. (Apparently, these guys missed the whole Matrix trilogy. I'd hold off on that one.)

This is being hailed as the dawn of a new industrial revolution by some and the Beginning of the End by others. Amazing and promising as it is, even Craig Venter, the head of the team, allows there are safety issues and potential for abuse. (Ya think?)

Read all about it at the BBC World Service and at Science.

What's your take on it? I'd be interested to hear your opinions.


myletterstoemily said...

i think it's pretty weird that i just
finished a book about a computer
made bacteria, "all this useless

when i read of people cloning or
creating, it just enforces my belief
that we were created, and not

it also reminds me of my children
building with wooden blocks. i
wouldn't trust those houses to
the rain or storms.

MyMaracas said...

Myletters, that sounds like a very timely book. According to a CNN interview, they used a powerful computer program and four chemicals to cook up a working genome.

What worries me is the tendency of living organisms in general to act in unexpected ways - and to get loose.

Thyra said...

Hej Maracas!
This is just my opinion.
We are all scared by the word bioterrotists or afraid if something dead-dangerous slips out from some laboratory. And we have had this fear for many years. Laboratories have worked with terrible diseases like ebola etc. Many new inventions inside i.e. medicine means a risc of misuse or misfortune.

This new project is giant and impossible for a layman to foresee the consequences of - they say that they do not know yet about the riscs, but I suppose they'll work on it until they know.

I'll try to forget the eventual riscs: If they might find out some useful fuels, then we might avoid the terrible oil catastrophes.

If they might make new vaccines, like effective vaccines against various cancer-types - or against a disease like ebola, aids etc.

This might be a huge step forward.


MyMaracas said...

Thyra, thank you for your thoughtful comment! You have a sane and comforting approach to the risk/reward aspect of research.

I agree that scientific inquiry must be allowed free rein to explore, to learn and to grow. I do hope this research produces all the wonders they hope it will. We could use some miracles right now, especially in the field of alternative fuels.

Rambling Woods said...

While exciting..the technology is kind of disturbing to me for some reason

MyMaracas said...

Michelle, my sentiments exactly.