Jump to content
Washington Football Team Logo
Extremeskins

Scientists try to create lifeform


Skins24

Recommended Posts

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20051219.wxlife19/BNStory/specialScienceandHealth/

Creating first synthetic life form

Work on the world's first human-made species is well under way at a research complex in Rockville, Md., and scientists in Canada have been quietly conducting experiments to help bring such a creature to life.

Robert Holt, head of sequencing for the Genome Science Centre at the University of British Columbia, is leading efforts at his Vancouver lab to play a key role in the production of the first synthetic life form -- a microbe made from scratch.

The project is being spearheaded by U.S. scientist Craig Venter, who gained fame in his former job as head of Celera Genomics, which completed a privately-owned map of the human genome in 2000.

Dr. Venter, 59, has since shifted his focus from determining the chemical sequences that encode life to trying to design and build it: "We're going from reading to writing the genetic code," he said in an interview.

The work is an extreme example of a burgeoning new field in science known as synthetic biology. It relies on advances in computer technology that permit the easy assembly of the chemical bits, known as nucleotides, that make up DNA.

Several scientific groups are trying to make genes that do not exist in nature, in hopes of constructing microbes that perform useful tasks, such as producing industrial chemicals, clean energy or drugs. Dr. Venter and his colleagues are pushing the technology to its limits by trying to put together an entirely synthetic genome.

"We have these genetic codes that we have been determining, so part of the proof [that they encode an organism] is reproducing the chromosome and seeing if it produces the same result," he said.

Government and scientific bodies in the U.S. have investigated safeguards for the new technology, given its potential to yield new pathogens as weapons of bioterror. Ethicists have raised concerns about humans altering the "nature of nature."

But proponents feel the many benefits of redesigning micro-organisms to do human bidding far outweigh the risks.

The Venter team is starting small, working to construct a simpler version of the bacteria known as Mycoplasma genitalium, a common resident of the human reproductive tract. They hope to determine the minimum number of genes required to breathe life into an organism.

M. genitalium is a single-cell bacterium with just one chromosome and 517 genes. But the Venter team is paring the recipe down and believes their version will be able to survive with as few as 250 to 400 genes -- each of which they are making themselves, one chemical piece at a time.

"I grew up doing that with cars and clocks and radios and things like that," Dr. Venter said. "You take them apart to understand them and then you try and see if you can reassemble them."

But even if the team can assemble all of the bug's 500,000 DNA chemicals (roughly 35,000 has been the record so far), no one knows if the organism will be viable. Will simply synthesizing a chemical sequence spark life?

"Nobody has ever done it before so absolutely it is a key hurdle," Dr. Venter said.

Dr. Holt, a Vancouver native who worked in the United States with Dr. Venter until 2002, described it as a "chicken and egg" problem.

"You need an egg to make the chicken, but you also need the chicken to make the egg," Dr. Holt said.

"So the profound problem is what do you do with this DNA once you get it? How do you turn it into an actual organism? You need the genome to encode and make the organism.

"But the way biology works, you need the organism to make the genome."

Dr. Holt and his UBC group are tackling that very problem.

One option for sparking life in a lab-made genome, he explained, is to transplant the synthetic DNA into the shell of an existing microbe. But unlike a human cell, the genetic material of bacteria is not neatly contained in one nucleus that can be removed and simply replaced with another.

"Their chromosomal DNA is floating throughout the entire organism," Dr. Holt said.

So the Vancouver group is researching the use of high-voltage electricity to essentially zap open a host bacteria and slowly infuse it with small pieces of new DNA.

No method exists to insert large DNA fragments. The UBC experiment involves breaking down the DNA of Haemophilus bacteria, a bug common to the upper respiratory tract, into 19 separate pieces and inserting it into the shell of an E. coli, commonly found in the human gut.

"That's the strategy, though we don't know if it will work," Dr. Holt said.

"I thought this was one of the most important problems and one that we should get working on here."

The problem, Dr. Venter said, is worth solving first with bacteria.

Having launched a company called Synthetic Genomics, Dr. Venter believes "the whole world is open" in terms of the commercial applications of being able to build or redesign micro-organisms for specific tasks.

He insists the main goal of his project to build the first synthetic life form, however, is to understand the essence of life, how it evolved and the essential elements that sustain it.

"Here we are trying to understand the human genome with 24,000 some odd genes and 100 trillion cells and we don't know how 300 or 400 genes work together to yield a simple living cell," he said.

"So if we ever have any hope of understanding our own genome, we need to start with something we can actually tear apart, break down and rebuild. So we're starting with a four-cylinder engine instead of a space shuttle."

**

You know....there is an easier way.

You see when a man and a woman love each other, or if there's lots of alcohol around, then..........

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2010 A.D.:

Man-made microbe is introduced into the ocean to clean up a disastrous oil spill that threatens an entire local ecosystem.

It succeeds. There is much rejoicing.

4010 A.D:

Mutated life form with a taste for oil finds its way into the Earth's untapped oil reserves.

4510 A.D.

Mutated life form, starving due to exhaustion of only food source, emerges from the oceans pissed and looking for something to eat.

I love science. Fiction and otherwise. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

what are we trying to do here BE GOD , this is just rediculious , the Bible tells us that he knows the begining & the end of our days , before the world begun , who are we to say we should be doing this , did we start with creation , why should we start now

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No doubt the religious implications here are going to be an issue for many. Hopefully we can incorporate that aspect of this INTO the discussion, civilly, and still manage to talk about the science as well. :)

*

Since we've had the more fundamental side represent already, I can't resist presenting the more agnostic side as well: IF there is an omnipotent God Whom designed, Made and Oversees All Things, perhaps He/She/It fully intended for us to follow and exercise the Curiousity and Talents we were given, including learning how to create life ourselves?

Just sayin.' :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

why do we need to create lifeforms when we can not even take care of them now??

I agree with using cells to help fight diseases, but creating a lifeform, what good will it do, not mentioning how many would die to create one

What good does it do to watch Redskins games? What good does it do to have a favorite color? Even if it has no practical value at all (and it DOES) I think it ought to be done just for the sake of curiousity.

And there goes #7000

Link to comment
Share on other sites

what are we trying to do here BE GOD , this is just rediculious , the Bible tells us that he knows the begining & the end of our days , before the world begun , who are we to say we should be doing this , did we start with creation , why should we start now

Who are we to say we should be doing anything? I don't think God ever told you to like the Washington Redskins.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"One option for sparking life in a lab-made genome, he explained, is to transplant the synthetic DNA into the shell of an existing microbe. But unlike a human cell, the genetic material of bacteria is not neatly contained in one nucleus that can be removed and simply replaced with another. "

So this isn't really creating life where none exists.

As interesting and cool as this seems, it also seems dangerous.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What good does it do to watch Redskins games? What good does it do to have a favorite color? Even if it has no practical value at all (and it DOES) I think it ought to be done just for the sake of curiousity.

And there goes #7000

liberty you are comparing a sport to something about science and nature

why do you think it has value? just do something for curiousity, in that case kill someone just to see what happens, your logic doesn't make sense

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I see a point in this either or good could come from this.

IF there is an omnipotent God Whom designed, Made and Oversees All Things, perhaps He/She/It fully intended for us to follow and exercise the Curiousity and Talents we were given, including learning how to create life ourselves?

I believe that's called sex

Why in the world would you want to know how to create life any other way?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"One option for sparking life in a lab-made genome, he explained, is to transplant the synthetic DNA into the shell of an existing microbe. But unlike a human cell, the genetic material of bacteria is not neatly contained in one nucleus that can be removed and simply replaced with another. "

So this isn't really creating life where none exists.

As interesting and cool as this seems, it also seems dangerous.

Bingo!!!!!!!!!!!!! someone who understands, the problem is people only see what good can come out of something, the bad is what we need to worry more about, if someone can find out how to create a lifeform from this, then others can use it to do something much worse

like the scientist said, once we can learn how to build it we can then take it down, and others who learn can create ways to cause damage like we have never seen before

Link to comment
Share on other sites

liberty you are comparing a sport to something about science and nature

why do you think it has value? just do something for curiousity, in that case kill someone just to see what happens, your logic doesn't make sense

Curiousity is the basis for all latent knowledge Jbooma. There are always risks, which is why precautions should be taken, but we can't shut off a whole field that has so much promise because you are only willing to see the bad side.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No doubt the religious implications here are going to be an issue for many. Hopefully we can incorporate that aspect of this INTO the discussion, civilly, and still manage to talk about the science as well. :)

*

Since we've had the more fundamental side represent already, I can't resist presenting the more agnostic side as well: IF there is an omnipotent God Whom designed, Made and Oversees All Things, perhaps He/She/It fully intended for us to follow and exercise the Curiousity and Talents we were given, including learning how to create life ourselves?

Just sayin.' :)

I'm not sure I'm bothered by this from a religious stand point. If successful, I'm sure many will try to use it as proof that God doesn't exist. I would argue it shows that life is not random and requires intelligent intervention to begin.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Curiousity is the basis for all latent knowledge Jbooma. There are always risks, which is why precautions should be taken, but we can't shut off a whole field that has so much promise because you are only willing to see the bad side.

the problem though is the bad can cause damage that we may never be able to fix, that is my point, and yes you have to think of both the bad and good, especially if it involves the genetic code, imagine if someone created a disease that would destroy your dna and then wipe out a populations ability to create life, is that something you would want to open?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"What good can come from it?"

First off .... read the article. :)

Second and more imporant ... this is SCIENCE. The pursuit of knowledge to help us better understand our universe, understand our place in it, and hopefully even make our journey a little easier when and where we can.

There are no guarantees that every research project and/or discovery will immediately yield tangible, beneficial results, and no guarantee that every one will be made without consequence. But please tell me no one here thinks human beings should stop reaching and learning.

Should we be "careful"? Duh. Yes.

But not at the expense of fear of the unknown causing us to stagnate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But not at the expense of fear of the unknown causing us to stagnate.

How is that when we have learned so much already just from stem research alone. The problem we have as humans is we do want to know everything, yet we do not want to think of the ramifications of that pursuit. The ability to creat life like this, yes it could help us so much in terms of science knowledge, and then in the wrong hands it could also wipe out all that we know.

OM I was thinking of you the other day reading a science magazine and this amazing story on black holes and how they believe that it actually be something dense like a liquid, etc... it was amazing. I will find it and send it to you.

http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7191

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How is that when we have learned so much already just from stem research alone. The problem we have as humans is we do want to know everything, yet we do not want to think of the ramifications of that pursuit. The ability to creat life like this, yes it could help us so much in terms of science knowledge, and then in the wrong hands it could also wipe out all that we know.

OM I was thinking of you the other day reading a science magazine and this amazing story on black holes and how they believe that it actually be something dense like a liquid, etc... it was amazing. I will find it and send it to you.

Jbooma, I think the problem that myself and others have with your case is this: although you're acknowledging the good that can come from this you're marginalizing it, and you're taking the negative side a bit too far.

I don't think this particular experiment will wipe out all that we know, but no one doubts that it needs to be performed with caution. To my mind, "someone might pervert this knowledge" is not in and of itself an acceptable reason to avoid seeking it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How is that when we have learned so much already just from stem research alone. The problem we have as humans is we do want to know everything, yet we do not want to think of the ramifications of that pursuit. The ability to creat life like this, yes it could help us so much in terms of science knowledge, and then in the wrong hands it could also wipe out all that we know.

"We as humans" think about the ramification of scientic pursuit all the time. For any example you could come up with suggesting otherwise (yes, of course there are some), we could come up with multiple examples backing up the notion that we are almost too CAREFUL.

Our progress takes place in tiny steps, in fits and starts, and always, at every step, subject to massive peer, public, private and governmental scrutiny, critique and debate.

This is just the latest installment.

OM I was thinking of you the other day reading a science magazine and this amazing story on black holes and how they believe that it actually be something dense like a liquid, etc... it was amazing. I will find it and send it to you.

Merci.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think this particular experiment will wipe out all that we know, but no one doubts that it needs to be performed with caution. To my mind, "someone might pervert this knowledge" is not in and of itself an acceptable reason to avoid seeking it.

the question is how good is the good and how bad can the bad be?? no one knows, i just think the bad in regards to dna could be far worse thats all, once we understand something entirely it will then be much easier to learn to destroy it completely

now i don't know if that is possible, but if so to me it would be worse, i would love to read more about it though, i also feel it seems there is a race to be the first, in that case they may throw caution to the side, look at the Korean guy he was a phony

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...