It took 20 skilled people working for a decade, and an estimated $40 million of funding, but the outcome is spectacular. It is described as “a defining moment in the history of biology and biotechnology” by Mark Bedau, editor of the journal Artificial Life. The BBC News headline was succinct: ‘Artificial life’ breakthrough announced by scientists. The Economist declared: “Artificial life, the stuff of dreams and nightmares, has arrived“. The research paper claims to have made a synthetic cell, and uses the word “creation” in the title.
“We refer to such a cell controlled by a genome assembled from chemically synthesized pieces of DNA as a “synthetic cell”, even though the cytoplasm of the recipient cell is not synthetic. Phenotypic effects of the recipient cytoplasm are diluted with protein turnover and as cells carrying only the transplanted genome replicate. Following transplantation and replication on a plate to form a colony (>30 divisions or >10^9 fold dilution), progeny will not contain any protein molecules that were present in the original recipient cell.”
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