Friday, 21 May 2010

Artificial Life...

"First artifical life?", here's the news from J Craig Venter Laboratories:

Now, this scientific team headed by Drs. Craig Venter, Hamilton Smith and Clyde Hutchison have achieved the final step in their quest to create the first synthetic bacterial cell. In a publication in Science magazine, Daniel Gibson, Ph.D. and a team of 23 additional researchers outline the steps to synthesize a 1.08 million base pair Mycoplasma mycoides genome, constructed from four bottles of chemicals that make up DNA. This synthetic genome has been "booted up" in a cell to create the first cell controlled completely by a synthetic genome.
NB: Above summary truncated for space reasons (see original)

And the news from the BBC:
'Artificial life' breakthrough announced by scientists
By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News

Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first living cell to be controlled entirely by synthetic DNA. The researchers constructed a bacterium's "genetic software" and transplanted it into a host cell. The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species "dictated" by the synthetic DNA.

and the reference in Science:

Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome
20 May 2010 DOI: 10.1126/science.1190719

Daniel G. Gibson, John I. Glass, Carole Lartigue, Vladimir N. Noskov, Ray-Yuan Chuang, Mikkel A. Algire, Gwynedd A. Benders, Michael G. Montague, Li Ma, Monzia M. Moodie, Chuck Merryman, Sanjay Vashee, Radha Krishnakumar, Nacyra Assad- Garcia, Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch, Evgeniya A. Denisova, Lei Young, Zhi-Qing Qi, Thomas H. Segall-Shapiro, Christopher H. Calvey, Prashanth P. Parmar, Clyde A. Hutchison III, Hamilton O. Smith, J. Craig Venter

BBC World Service radio has a very good interview with Dr.Venter (Wikipedia entry here). Unfortunately this hasn't really stopped the accompanying hysteria. BBC World Service's Newshour ( 14h05, 21 May 2010 UK Time: link - which may work in the future ) has a superb interview with Prof Steve Jones, Dept. of Generics, UCL which discusses what has actually happened in clear, precise, scientific terms in a way that is readily understandable to the general public.

However, for most media outlets, Newsbiscuit has a rather more accurate take on the reporting of this and regrettably anything related to science usually:
Journalists create world’s first artificial news story

Journalists in the UK have succeeded in creating the world’s first synthetic news story about artificial DNA.The hacks developed the outline of a normal piece of reporting about a tentative, abstruse scientific discovery, and transplanted into it some organic tripe about an unprecedented scientific breakthrough which will change the world and possibly wipe out all human life

Frighteningly Newsbiscuit's report probably has more accurate, scientific comment than most mainstream media.

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