Big news in the realm of biology as scientists have successfully performed a “species transplant” turning one bacteria into another one. The technique used in this experiment will be key in the creation of artificial life:
Since the 1970s, scientists have moved genes – instructions to make proteins – between different organisms.
But this marks the first time that the entire instruction set, consisting of more than a million “letters” of DNA, has been transplanted, transforming one species of bacterium into another.
They are attempting to build a microbe with the minimal set of genes needed for life, with the goal of then adding other useful genes, such as ones for making biofuels.
It recently submitted broad patents for methods to create a synthetic genome from such lab-made DNA.
In anticipation, the team wanted to develop a way to move a complete genome into a living cell, choosing the simplest and smallest kind, a bacterium.
In all, of the millions of bacteria that they tried the transplant on, it only worked one time in every 150,000.
Dr Venter likened it to “changing a Macintosh computer into a PC by inserting a new piece of software” and stressed it would be more difficult in other kinds of cells, which have enzymes to snip the DNA of invaders.
But he said to achieve the feat, without adding anything more than naked DNA, “is a huge enabling step.”
There’s still plenty of other hurdles to overcome and the scientists still don’t fully grasp how introducing new DNA reprograms a cell, but it’s a significant first step. The fact that this works at all is yet another validation of the theory of evolution which the creationists will handily ignore with a wave of their hand.