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#38750 - 05/23/10 12:41 PM Synthetic life
Dimitri Offline
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Registered: 07/13/08
Posts: 3138
Craig Venter, synthetic life (TED)

For the very first time, mankind has achieved to create a bacteria whose genetic code was created on a computer and in the course of 15 years was being built into a real living, replicating and moving bacteria.

Press: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10134341.stm

This major break-trough in science which can lead to a better understanding of life and opens up the possibilities of enhancing our life standards on long term.


Edited by Dimitri (05/23/10 12:45 PM)
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#38751 - 05/23/10 12:58 PM Re: Synthetic life [Re: Dimitri]
Adversary Offline
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Registered: 02/19/10
Posts: 93
Yah, it's got a lot of people freaked out, sadly. Everyone starts talking super-soldiers and what not. It could end the stem cell controversy, create organs that will not be rejected by the host, ect. I think it's great, and I am all for it.

Edited by Adversary (05/23/10 01:01 PM)

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#38752 - 05/23/10 01:12 PM Re: Synthetic life [Re: Adversary]
Dimitri Offline
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Registered: 07/13/08
Posts: 3138
Funny, I was more thinking about producing micro-organisms (somewhere in the future) who exclusively can live off raw oil (taking the recent environmental disaster of BP in account which is now by far the biggest in history).

Other possible options would be creating bacteria who produce certain antibiotics without the whole process of refinement....

I guess the idea ( which probably is an idea sprouted in the mind of a war-adoring nation) of a supersoldier is still a good time-distance ahead. The bounderies and steps from unicellular life towards multicellular life are very complicated.


Edited by Dimitri (05/23/10 01:13 PM)
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#38753 - 05/23/10 01:25 PM Re: Synthetic life [Re: Dimitri]
FriendlyS Offline
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Registered: 10/05/09
Posts: 39
Loc: Toronto, Canada
I'm amazed that they could make synthetic DNA that could dominate a cell and even replicate but I still don't know if I would consider it synthetic "life" for the reason that they didn't make the entire cell, just implanted the synthetic DNA into an already existing cell of a close relative to the bacteria they were replicating. It's still fascinating though.

As for the war concerns, people are thinking more along the lines of biological warfare but its a ridiculous idea because it will continue to be easier to use natural biological warfare for many many years. Unless they begin creating organisms that don't already exist in nature but that's very far into the future as well and it still isn't practical when there is so much to choose from in nature for biological warfare.

The more realistic uses for this technology are the ones you stated for creating new fuel sources and what I personally think is more important, medical applications like antibiotics and such.

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#38755 - 05/23/10 06:56 PM Re: Synthetic life [Re: FriendlyS]
Wijesin Offline
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Registered: 11/15/09
Posts: 34
Yes, awesome break-through! An important barrier is broken down. FriendlyS is correct - they introduce synthetic DNA to an existing bacterial 'shell'. Synthesising DNA is pretty easy. Synthesising a workable cellular membrane, not to mention all the proteins and the other molecular machinery needed for even the simplest bacteria is something entirely different. Also, you'd have to assemble the parts, somehow. Not so easy.

Both ease of synthesis and ease of reading DNA has fuelled this breakthrough. DNA inherent chemical characteristics make it easier to make, than - say - proteins. It consists of only a few different sub-units, and the two helixes provide each other with mutual stability and base-pair complimentarity.

Oil-eating microbes may exist already or can be bred out of existing strains by microbiologist - a quick search on pubmed yielded a few hits, but unfortunately I cannot access the full articles right now.

Another reason (adding to those given above) not to freak out by this is that we have no control about what's out there bacteria-wise anyway. Some garage-projects in the future will do little to make it worse, and may add much to providing useful solutions.
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#38770 - 05/24/10 06:11 AM Re: Synthetic life [Re: Wijesin]
Dimitri Offline
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Registered: 07/13/08
Posts: 3138
 Quote:
Oil-eating microbes may exist already or can be bred out of existing strains by microbiologist - a quick search on pubmed yielded a few hits, but unfortunately I cannot access the full articles right now.

I am aware of these species. The thing I was pointing at was to make a bacteria who lives exclusively off raw oil. The current ones used and investigated in Cuba still need some 'extra' to achieve the result we want. (Creating the "right" conditions, adding certain nutrients to let the biochemical reaction take place..)

With the ability and barrier now broken and achieved by Craig, we should be able to create a bacteria whose DNA-structure makes it able to change the raw oil into CO2 and H2O without any extra nutrients.. (at the condition there is more investigation to have a better understanding and know-how).

I have a nice feeling about the article and recent finding, yet aware of the obstacles when the path is going to be exploited.
It can be said that mankind has achieved to create "life" (although it is on a micropscopic level).

A little extra: http://www.oiltracers.com/services/exploration-geochemistry/oil-biodegradation.aspx

Now to FriendlyS:
 Quote:
As for the war concerns, people are thinking more along the lines of biological warfare but its a ridiculous idea because it will continue to be easier to use natural biological warfare for many many years. Unless they begin creating organisms that don't already exist in nature but that's very far into the future as well and it still isn't practical when there is so much to choose from in nature for biological warfare.

Biological warfare is less used nowadays due to certain negative side effects.
1) The contaminated area will be quickly a "danger zone" for both the victims as the agressors.
2) The impact of biological warfare has no boundaries. You can try to limit it to a certain village, but bacteria and virusses are so small and can reach distances many miles away from the zone you wanted to be hit.
3) The weapons (limiting to bacteria and virusses) have the nasty ability to mutate, rendering the medication the agressors first made useless.
4) The effects of biological warfare can last several decades, far after the time limit the war took place. ( If I'm not mistaking, there was a certain place in the UK were a certain stem for BW was tested. Untill this day this place is closed to public (for several years now)).


Edited by Dimitri (05/24/10 06:29 AM)
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#38771 - 05/24/10 06:22 AM Re: Synthetic life [Re: Dimitri]
Wijesin Offline
stranger


Registered: 11/15/09
Posts: 34
Ah, so I see - you did write 'exclusively'. Speaking bioweapons, such a microbe would be nice to introduce to a potential enemy's oil reserves. They could have the time of their lives inside the refinery store-tanks. But as with all bioweapons, distribution would probably limit usefulness.
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#38774 - 05/24/10 12:00 PM Re: Synthetic life [Re: Dimitri]
Michael A.Aquino Offline
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Registered: 09/28/08
Posts: 2573
Loc: San Francisco, CA, USA
Methinks all of the above comments are far too emotional and argumentative. What is needed instead is a calm, reflective approach to this development.
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#38781 - 05/24/10 06:37 PM Re: Synthetic life [Re: Michael A.Aquino]
Wijesin Offline
stranger


Registered: 11/15/09
Posts: 34
Ahhh. Job satisfaction.
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#38782 - 05/24/10 06:58 PM Re: Synthetic life [Re: SkaffenAmtiskaw]
Wijesin Offline
stranger


Registered: 11/15/09
Posts: 34
Yeah, there is the NBC dimension... Biological and chemical weapons are easy (sort of) to make, but a bit bothersome to store and even worse to distribute in an effecient manner. You really need a lot of resources and a very knowledgable (and ruthless) army to do that and gain from it in military terms.

Developing new, er, solutions, requires a lot of resources, know-how, stability and access to the free market for long periods of time. So, the semi-good news on that score may be that this is done only by a few countries that fullfill these and other qualifications. These tend to be at least semi-reliable and semi-responsible, and hence the semi-good news.

But, as you say, you never know what's out there.
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