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Scientists insert artificial genome into bacterial cell
This is a heck of a big science story


And, of course, the instant this happens there are (mainly religious) objections.

Yes, of course there are dangers. There are dangers in any experiment, any piece of cutting edge engineering, any building, any... well, anything.

Congratulations to Dr Venter. It's one heck of an achievement, and one more step on the road to proving that there isn't anything supernatural to life.

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It's impressive, but I must admit to thinking of the new possibilities for "software bugs" in engineered living cells.

True, but most mutations - which is what any badly engineered bugs-in-dna-software would be the equivalent of - are either neutral or so detrimental they kill the cell. This is happening all the time, every minutes, every second, every nano-second in the huge laboratory that is the natural world. It's not likely that, in the tiny samples we are talking about compared to the natural world, that this would have any special adverse effect.

This really is an amazing achievement. I mean, we've known it's possible for some time but the skill involved in making it happen is just awe inspiring.

It's incredibly exciting. Of course there are risks. If it was easy and safe it would be neither exciting nor an achievement.

One problem is when I see Dr Venter I keep thinking of Dr Venkman (?sp) from *Ghostbusters*...

Very cool.

The technical challenge of getting all the chemistry right is enormous. I look forward to reading the paper. :-)

I look forward to reading the paper

You, me, PZ, Jerry Coyne...

It's been said, what is invented can't be uninvented so, if that's true, whatever anyone's reactions are to this, it's here and we have to hope the technology will be used responsibly. Much like with cloning or genetically modifying plants, and we humans tinker with the world around us, it's what we do. The earliest experimentation being humans domesticating wild plant and animal life, and sometimes we get it right.

There in no thing good or bad but some man makes it so.

We've been meddling with the genomes of plants and animals since we started the process of domestication. The difference is that this is directly meddling with the DNA instead of indirect meddling by selecting for expressed mutations.

One of the really fascinating things about this is that by inserting a different (and much simpler) genome into a recently dead cell, the cell sprang back to life and started reproducing and producing cells based on the inserted genome.

We've been able to create viruses (virii?) for a while, but there is still argument about whether those are alive at all. This is one more step along the road, though it's a long way yet to cytoplasm, let alone eukaryotes.

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