Artificial life has been created sparking debate about 'playing god'Submitted by SteveMT on Fri, 05/21/2010 - 00:29
Scientist Craig Venter creates life for first time in laboratory sparking debate about 'playing god'
Artificial life has been created in a laboratory for the first time by a maverick scientist.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Published: 6:00PM BST 20 May 2010
Dr Craig Venter, a multi-millionaire pioneer in genetics, and his team have managed to make a completely new "synthetic" life form from a mix of chemicals.
They manufactured a new chromosome from artificial DNA in a test tube, then transferred it into an empty cell and watched it multiply – the very definition of being alive.
The man-made single cell "creature", which is a modified version of one of the simplest bacteria on earth, proves that the technology works.
Now Dr Venter believes organism, nicknamed Synthia, will pave the way for more complex creatures that can transform environmental waste into clean fuel, vaccinate against disease and soak up pollution.
But his development has also triggered debate over the ethics of "playing god" and the dangers of the new technology could pose in terms of biological hazards and warfare.
"We are entering an era limited only by our imagination," he said announcing the research published in the journal Science.
Dr Venter, a pioneer of genetic code sequencing and his team at the J Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, have been chasing the goal for more than 15 years at a cost of £30m.
First they sequenced the genetic code of Mycoplasma genitalium, the world's smallest bacteria that lives in cattle and goats, and stored the information on a computer.
Then they used the computer code to artificially reproduce the DNA in the laboratory, slightly modifying it with a "watermark" so it was distinguishable from the original natural one.