Thursday, May 20, 2010
Be the first on your block to create life
by Larry Geller
Here’s your scare of the day. Not oil leaking, not banksters, not the stock market plunging.
"This is the first synthetic cell that's been made," said Venter. "We call it synthetic because the cell is totally derived from a synthetic chromosome, made with four bottles of chemicals on a chemical synthesizer, starting with information in a computer."
"I hope the day comes when making genomes is something everyone can do," said Pamela Silver, a systems biologist at Harvard Medical School. [MSNBC, It's alive! Artificial DNA controls life, 5/19/2010]
How long before this ends up in kids’ science projects?
The article describes the process, and the problems they found with the cells, which did reproduce and grow. And grow. And grow. That’s the scary part. They grew.
Suppose one of the science projects escapes?
The scientists couldn’t resist a little graffiti it seems:
Venter and his colleagues created a special code, similar to Morse code, to "write" within the DNA itself. Instead of dots and dashes, they used the sequence of four DNA nucleotides, thymine (T), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and adenine (A), as a code for any letter, number or punctuation mark. Using the code, the team included the names of the study co-authors, a website and even several philosophical quotes, complete with punctuation.
This leads to another possible science project. Give the kids a bottle of cells and ask them to do a book report on them.
It’s going to be a weird day, if it starts out like this…