Scientists have built the first synthetic genome by stringing together 147 pages of letters representing the building blocks of DNA.Impressive. Soon you will be able to design a custom genome straight from your PC, in an application that rightfully should be named iLife. Sounds like they have come a long way in creating designer DNA since I first read about it two years ago.
Just a few years ago, synthesizing a piece of DNA with 5,000 rungs in its helix, known as base-pairs, was impossible. Venter's new synthetic genome is 582,000 base-pairs.
"The largest piece that had been published in the scientific literature was 32 kilobases," Venter said. "This is on the order of 20 times the size."
The researchers used yeast to stitch together four long strands of DNA into the genome of a bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium.
"We consider this the second in our three-step process to create the first synthetic organism," said J. Craig Venter, president of the J. Craig Venter Institute where scientists performed the study, on Thursday during a teleconference. "What remains now that we have this complete synthetic chromosome … is to boot this up in a cell."Apparently, after seeing the success of The Lord of the Rings, Venter decided that a trilogy was the way to go. Now we must patiently await the genetic version of The Return of the King.
The first phase of Venter's three-step process, which he published last year, involved transplanting and "booting up" the genome of one species of bacterium into another. The remaining step is to combine the first two steps, then insert the new synthetic genome into a standard bacterium. Scientists said they expect the announcement of man-made life this year.