The folks at the Craig Venter Institute, having patented the technology for creating a synthetic organism, now have at least part of the process working: they report that they can take an entire bacterial genome from one organism and pop it into another, essentially “re-booting” the cell as a new species. The next step, obviously, is to synthesize a custom genome that does something you find worthwhile (digests some nasty chemical, if you’re feeling eco-conscious…or produces a nasty chemical, if you’re feeling more war-like), and create your own bacteria.
One interesting thing (from a methodological standpoint) about this procudre is that it appears to involve inducing the fusion of the two cells (the researchers don’t actually know; they just see the outcome), making it somewhat similar to procedures for creating hybrid cell types in mammals. It’s something of an unexpected connection between bacterial transformation and cell fusion.
Labels: Synthetic biology