Friday, 25 January 2008

How hard can it be to make life?

The news today is full of reports on how a team led by Dr Craig Venter in the United States has created 'synthetic life' - basically copying Mycoplasma genitalium in the way that the Japanese used to copy Western products a few decades ago, before they learned to build their own.

Well, how hard can it be to make life? After all, it happened a few millions of years ago on the Earth without the help of any men in white coats, bottles of chemicals or laboratories.

Next time some scientist wants to claim a breakthrough, just tell 'em to do it nature's way - mix the right kind of water with the right kind of chemicals, add a bit of heat, a bit of light, shake the bottle and step back.

Revd John Richardson

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  1. ooo, yore clever. tell me somethink els.

    poppy tupper

  2. I'm not holding my breath - so far they've artificially generated the genome (DNA code) of this bacterium, but they've not made "synthetic life". That would require putting the DNA they've made into another cell (note the use of ready-created life here...) and getting that cell to replicate the genome and divide into daughter cells each containing the new genetic material. It's been done with viruses since 1999, and it always needs a "ready-made" cell culture to get it going. It's pretty clever technology, yes, but I don't think it's quite what the media have implied!

    Rosie Brock, Oxford