In an accomplishment sure to have far-reaching scientific ramifications as well as both political and ethical concerns, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), have successfully constructed the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. The team synthesized the 1.08 million base pair chromosome of a modified Mycoplasma mycoides genome called "Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0." The research was published by Daniel Gibson et al in the May 20th edition of Science Express and will appear in an upcoming print issue of Science.
Dr. Gibson stated, "To produce a synthetic cell, our group had to learn how to sequence, synthesize, and transplant genomes. Many hurdles had to be overcome, but we are now able to combine all of these steps to produce synthetic cells in the laboratory." He added, "We can now begin working on our ultimate objective of synthesizing a minimal cell containing only the genes necessary to sustain life in its simplest form. This will help us better understand how cells work."
The JCVI scientists envision that the knowledge gained by constructing this first self-replicating synthetic cell, coupled with decreasing costs for DNA synthesis, will give rise to wider use of this powerful technology. This will undoubtedly lead to the development of many important applications and products including biofuels, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, clean water and food products. The group continues to drive and support ethical discussion and review to ensure a positive outcome for society.
Here's the J. Craig Venter release