Oh, ‘One of the Most Important Scientific Achievements in the History of Mankind’ Happened Recently

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Photo: reuters.com

Well, that's how UPenn bioethicist Arthur Caplan feels about a successful experiment, announced yesterday, wherein scientists built a genome out of nearly one million nucleotides, piece by piece, from scratch, using "off-the-shelf chemicals," and then put the genome into a hollow cell, which then came alive and replicated as normal. The world-famous genome researcher who led the project thought it was fairly earth-shattering himself.

"We think these are the first synthetic cells that are self-replicating and whose genetic heritage started in the computer. That changes conceptually how I think about life," said J. Craig Venter, 63, who gained fame a decade ago as the co-sequencer of the human genome.


Other, less easily impressed scientists call the experiment merely a "milestone" or an "important advancement." Meanwhile, President Obama is asking a panel to investigate whether this has the potential to destroy mankind.

Artificial life? Synthetic genes 'boot up' cell [Reuters]
Scientists create cell based on man-made genetic instructions [WP]