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Thread: Synthetic Cell

  1. #1 Synthetic Cell 
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Pretty interesting development by Craig Venter's team today. Not really a cell from scratch, but a major opportunity for genetic engineering bacteria in the future way more sophisticated than the use of plasmids. Theoretically this method could be used to produce increasingly novel genomes, cool stuff.

    We report the design, synthesis and assembly of the 1.08-
    Mbp Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 genome starting
    from digitized genome sequence information and its
    transplantation into a Mycoplasma capricolum recipient
    cell to create new Mycoplasma mycoides cells that are
    controlled only by the synthetic chromosome. The only
    DNA in the cells is the designed synthetic DNA sequence,
    including “watermark” sequences and other designed
    gene deletions and polymorphisms, and mutations
    acquired during the building process. The new cells have
    expected phenotypic properties and are capable of
    continuous self-replication.
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/rapidp....1190719v1.pdf


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  3. #2  
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    Impressive development.


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    Yea, I read about it on yahoo news. Exciting!
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    Forum Professor Zwirko's Avatar
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    Nice work for sure.

    Synthetic cell or synthetic genome?

    I wonder how difficult it'll be to synthesise the cell membrane, since this is something the cell itself can't even do.
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  6. #5  
    Moderator Moderator Dishmaster's Avatar
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    Does anybody have a view about the down sides of such a research? Sure, the positive aspects may be abundant. But I mean, is this kind of technology ethically justifiable? Isn't this comparable to the research on nuclear fission and fusion with all their benefits and threats?

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...L&type=science
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  7. #6  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    I don't see how it would be unjustifiable. Venter's team specifically removed any virulence genes, even though the base genome came from a sheep pathogen. The technology is no more morally justifiable or unjustifiable than the technology used to produce sharpened sticks or knives. It's how the technology is used that would matter, and so far manipulating the genome of a sheep pathogen isn't unjustifiable. Venter's intention is to produce biofuels by creating more productive algae, I don't see anything wrong with that. Although, I'm interested to see if he succeeds in patenting his new strain.
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  8. #7  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zwirko
    Nice work for sure.

    Synthetic cell or synthetic genome?
    Genome. From what I can gather they assembled the genome based on a series of sequences held digitally. The digital sequences being derived from a real organism. A strange sort of reproduction via a machine... the cell was just a normal cell with the genetic material removed.
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  9. #8  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    Quote Originally Posted by Zwirko
    Nice work for sure.

    Synthetic cell or synthetic genome?
    Genome. From what I can gather they assembled the genome based on a series of sequences held digitally. The digital sequences being derived from a real organism. A strange sort of reproduction via a machine...
    Venter decided to call it a synthetic cell, so I went with his name for it. Although, ya it is a synthetic genome, and really what is important here is not the creation of a synthetic cell, but the potential use this has in making large scale alterations to a genome possible.
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  10. #9  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by i_feel_tiredsleepy
    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    Quote Originally Posted by Zwirko
    Nice work for sure.

    Synthetic cell or synthetic genome?
    Genome. From what I can gather they assembled the genome based on a series of sequences held digitally. The digital sequences being derived from a real organism. A strange sort of reproduction via a machine...
    Venter decided to call it a synthetic cell, so I went with his name for it. Although, ya it is a synthetic genome, and really what is important here is not the creation of a synthetic cell, but the potential use this has in making large scale alterations to a genome possible.
    Yes, has more potential than using plasmids and the like anyway. No good for altering genomes in vivo/in vitro though. Rather you can alter a digital copy and make a new organism.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheBiologista
    Yes, has more potential than using plasmids and the like anyway. No good for altering genomes in vivo/in vitro though. Rather you can alter a digital copy and make a new organism.
    Well ya, it's not going to be of use in gene therapy. Apparently, the intended direction of the project (with a 600M$ investment from Exxon) is to produce high-yield biofuel from algae.
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    This is interesting but how will this help fight and cure diseases.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard i_feel_tiredsleepy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by singh
    This is interesting but how will this help fight and cure diseases.
    Primarily it has potential for use in vaccine production, but it wasn't made with the intention of curing diseases.
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  14. #13  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by singh
    This is interesting but how will this help fight and cure diseases.
    Assuming for a moment it doesn't help do these things (it does) why is that relevant?
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  15. #14  
    Forum Sophomore kingjacob's Avatar
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    The downside is it looks like Venter has the ability to patent the techniques used to create the "synthetic cell". And judging by past behavior, it is highly unlikely he will.
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  16. #15  
    Forum Ph.D. Raziell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dishmaster
    But I mean, is this kind of technology ethically justifiable?
    With that attitude science would surely come to a complete stop very soon? We cant let ethics and morals prevent progress.
    A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it. - David Stevens
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  17. #16  
    Moderator Moderator Dishmaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raziell
    Quote Originally Posted by Dishmaster
    But I mean, is this kind of technology ethically justifiable?
    With that attitude science would surely come to a complete stop very soon? We cant let ethics and morals prevent progress.
    This is nonsense. I am a scientist myself. But what is wrong about thinking about the implications of a certain research? Yes, it is difficult and often maybe even impossible to figure out the possibilities of application. Still, I think one should be aware of the dangers that lie in the discoveries. To concentrate only on the positive aspects means being naive and careless.

    By the way: Here in Germany, we have an Ethics Advisory Council that deals exactly with those questions. Recommendations made by this council are often reflected in the federal laws in Germany. For this reason, stem cell research is restricted here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raziell
    Quote Originally Posted by Dishmaster
    But I mean, is this kind of technology ethically justifiable?
    With that attitude science would surely come to a complete stop very soon? We cant let ethics and morals prevent progress.
    What would be so ethically wrong about producing synthetic life? :?
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  19. #18  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raziell
    Quote Originally Posted by Dishmaster
    But I mean, is this kind of technology ethically justifiable?
    With that attitude science would surely come to a complete stop very soon? We cant let ethics and morals prevent progress.
    Surely that is the very point of ethics? To discern the 'should' from the 'could'? Scientists have and continue to take ethics very seriously, even to the point of self-enforced moratoriums on the publication of some kinds of research.
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  20. #19  
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    There was a show on the science channel about this that aired last night and will air again today.
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