I have added only two questions f the interview, that i found interesting and planning investigate more. Full article on BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10134341

Bioethicists have reacted with caution to the announcement that scientists in the US have created the first synthetic living cell. Their work, which many scientists have called a landmark study, is a key step towards the design and creation of new living things.

Have these scientists created synthetic life?

They are calling this a synthetic living cell. But they did use an existing cell as a template and as a recipient for their home-made DNA. Strictly speaking, it is only the genome – the DNA in the cell – that is entirely synthetic. This bacterial cell, the researchers say, is the first life form to be entirely controlled by synthetic DNA.

The scientists “decoded” the chromosome of an existing bacterial cell – using a computer to read each of the letters of genetic code.

Thaksin Shinawatra in 2001

The researchers also employed “nature’s tools” to build their new chromosome (the package of DNA that contains all of the genetic material the cell needs to live and function).

They chemically constructed blocks of DNA then inserted them into yeast cells, which assembled the blocks into a complete bacterial chromosome.

Are there ethical concerns about making new life?

Some critics have accused Dr Venter and his colleagues of “playing God” and believe that it should not be a role for humans to design new life.

There are also concerns about the safety of this new technology.

Professor Julian Savulescu, from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford says the potential of this science is “in the far future, but real and significant: dealing with pollution, new energy sources, new forms of communication”.

“But the risks are also unparalleled,” he continues. “We need new standards of safety evaluation for this kind of radical research and protections from military or terrorist misuse and abuse.

These could be used in the future to make the most powerful bioweapons imaginable. The challenge is to eat the fruit without the worm.”

Dr Venter stresses that he and his colleagues have been addressing these ethical and safety issues since they began their first experiments in the field of synthetic biology.

“We asked for an extensive ethical review of the approach,” he explained.

“In 2003, when we made the first synthetic virus, it underwent extensive ethical review that went all the way up to the level of the White House.

“And there have been extensive reviews including from the National Academy of Sciences, which has done a comprehensive report on this new field.

“We think these are important issues and we urge continued discussion that we want to take part in.”


Related Article:
Ethical concerns of producing first synthetic living cell


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