Complete DNA genome created from chemicals

Template for life created out of lab chemicals

Mycoplasma genitalium
Mycoplasma genitaliumCourtesy Department of Energy
Starting with simple laboratory chemicals, a group of scientists led by Craig Venter have replicated an entire bacterial genome. Based on an existing organism, the molecule of DNA Mycoplasma genitalium, composed of 582,970 base pairs, could come "alive" and start to replicate itself when inserted into a "hollow" bacterial host from which the DNA has been removed. The procedure titled, Complete Chemical Synthesis, Assembly, and Cloning of a Mycoplasma genitalium Genome was just published in Science.

"Venter and his colleagues have already managed to transplant the DNA from one bacteria into another, making it change species (see Genome transplant makes species switch/news070625-9). These bacteria were closely related to M. genitalium. If the transplant can be repeated with a man-made genome adapted from M. genitalium, the result could qualify as the first artificial life form (see 'What is artificial life?')" Nature News.

Customizing bacteria to solve problems

The genome of M. genitalium is one of the simplest, consisting of only 470 coding regions. Venter suspects about 100 of these are not necessary. The next step is to strip out various segments in an attempt to build the minimal amount of code that is essential for "life". This minimal component could then serve as a chassis to which "designer" genes could be attached, genes that could turn the bacteria into biological factories for making hydrogen (or other fuels).

Recommended reading:
Longest Piece of Synthetic DNA Yet (Scientific American)

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