JCVI gets one step closer to artificial life

J. Craig Venter (photo) is at it again. Using nothing but laboratory chemicals, J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) scientists have created a bacterium's genetic structure. Prior to this the largest synthesized DNA contained a 32,000 base pair; the JCVI's bacterium contained 582,970. This is the second step in a three-step process. Next, researchers will attempt to create a living bacterial cell based entirely on the synthetically made genome.

"This is an exciting advance for our team and the field. However, we continue to work toward the ultimate goal of inserting the synthetic chromosome into a cell and booting it up to create the first synthetic organism," said Dan Gibson, lead author. The work was published in the journal Science.

Critics of artificial life research worry about the legal and ethical implications of such research. They point out that there is very little regulation and that scientists must be trusted to regulate their work. But researchers are pushing ahead; Venter has expressed hope that the institute will succeed in creating artificial life by the end of 2008.

- see this release from the J. Craig Venter Institute
- read the Wall Street Journal article for more