Friday, June 29, 2007

Craig Venter up to it again

Craig Venter et al. have apparently taken a big step towards creating synthetic life - they've managed to insert the whole genome of one species of bacteria into another species of bacteria. Some people are making a big deal about it and apparently there's a good editorial in the current Nature (though I wouldn't know since Roger Williams University apparently doesn't think it important to have a subscription)

There is however a NY Times piece on it. Without knowing the details of how this whole genome insertion is carried out, I must say that this technique doesn't seem particularly mind-blowing - we've been putting genes of one species into the cells of other species for decades (and microbes and viruses have probably been doing it billions of years). I would have thought that this sort of thing was inevitable and the next logical step in genetic engineering. In fact, now that I think about it, this isn't really different than cloning...

...I've just sat here for a few minutes thinking about how this new breakthrough is different from the cloning techniques currently being used. They seem fundamentally the same to me. If anyone out there knows otherwise, please tell me what I am missing (like I said, I haven't read up on Venter's method and the obstacles that had to be maneuvered along the way).

In any case, all we need to do now is to create a synthetic genome. How hard could that be?

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