US scientist creates synthetic chromosome

  • PTI, London
  • |
  • Updated: Oct 06, 2007 17:09 IST
Controversial US scientist Craig Venter claimed to have constructed a synthetic chromosome using chemicals made from the laboratory, a step towards the creation of first new artificial life form on Earth.

"This landmark will be a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before," 'The Guardian' reported on Saturday, quoting Venter as saying.

He is expected to announce the discovery -- a feat of bio-engineering never previously achieved -- within weeks.

According to the daily, using lab-made chemicals, Venter and his fellow researchers have painstakingly stitched together the synthetic chromosome that is 381 genes long and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code.

The DNA sequence is based on the bacterium Mycoplasma genitalium which the team pared down to the bare essentials needed to support life.

The chromosome has been watermarked with inks for easy recognition. It is then transplanted into a living bacterial cell and in the final stage of the process it is expected to take control of the cell and in effect become a new life form.

The scientists have already successfully transplanted the genome of one type of bacterium into the cell of another, effectively changing the cell's species.

The new life form will depend for its ability to replicate itself and metabolise on the molecular machinery of the cell into which it has been injected, and in that sense it will not be a wholly synthetic life form.

Venter said he was "100 per cent confident" the same technique would work for the artificially created chromosome. "We have carried out an ethical review before completing the experiment. We feel that this is good science."

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