[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Skip to Main Content

Latest News

Advertisement
Advertise Here
May 24, 2010
Volume 88, Number 21
p. 10
Article appeared online May 20, 2010

Synthetic Biology Takes A Step Forward

Genetic Engineering: Team grows bacterial DNA in yeast, transplants it to host cell, which then replicates

David Pittman

  • Print this article
  • Email the editor

Latest News



October 28, 2011

Speedy Homemade-Explosive Detector

Forensic Chemistry: A new method could increase the number of explosives detected by airport screeners.

Solar Panel Makers Cry Foul

Trade: U.S. companies complain of market dumping by China.

Novartis To Cut 2,000 Jobs

Layoffs follow similar moves by Amgen, AstraZeneca.

Nations Break Impasse On Waste

Environment: Ban to halt export of hazardous waste to developing world.

New Leader For Lawrence Livermore

Penrose (Parney) Albright will direct DOE national lab.

Hair Reveals Source Of People's Exposure To Mercury

Toxic Exposure: Mercury isotopes in human hair illuminate dietary and industrial sources.

Why The Long Fat?

Cancer Biochemistry: Mass spectrometry follows the metabolism of very long fatty acids in cancer cells.

Text Size A A

Electron micrograph of the newly created cells. Science
Electron micrograph of the newly created cells.

Genetic researchers have created the first cell controlled by a synthetic genome, an advance they say could lead to the building of bacteria with customized functions.

J. Craig Venter, whose work helped map the human genome in 2000, and coworkers synthesized the genome of the bacteria Mycoplasma mycoides and then transplanted it to a host cell, in this case Mycoplasma capricolum. The group reports the feat in Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.1190719).

The team at the J. Craig Venter Institutes in Rockville, Md., and San Diego combined several procedures that it helped develop in recent years to grow the bacterial DNA in yeast and then transplant it.

The synthesized genome has four "watermarks" to differentiate it from the natural one. The created cells look and act like normal M. mycoides bacteria and can continuously self-replicate.

"The approach we have developed should be applicable to the synthesis and transplantation of more novel genomes as genome design progresses," the researchers note in the paper.

The team's synthetic genome is more than 1 million base pairs in length, the largest chemically defined structure ever built in a lab, according to the group. The genome is more than 30 times larger than any reported DNA sequence synthesized outside the group's lab.

This work could open the possibility to reengineer an organism according to tailor-made specifications and could be used to better understand the function of every gene in a cell, the research team says.

"It extends the possibility of synthesizing functional, large biomolecules," says James J. Collins, director of the Center for BioDynamics at Boston University.

The group says the technology could be used to design bacteria that create biofuels or sequester carbon dioxide, build industrial compounds, or produce pharmaceuticals including vaccines.

Some scientists say this work isn't creating artificial life because the genome is based on something in nature and not made from scratch.

"This is significant work, though of course it does not mean that scientists can now synthesize life, a common misinterpretation of the field of genome synthesis and transplantation," says David R. Liu, professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard University.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
  • Print this article
  • Email the editor

Services & Tools

ACS Resources

ACS is the leading employment source for recruiting scientific professionals. ACS Careers and C&EN Classifieds provide employers direct access to scientific talent both in print and online. Jobseekers | Employers

» Join ACS

Join more than 161,000 professionals in the chemical sciences world-wide, as a member of the American Chemical Society.
» Join Now!