Thursday, January 24, 2008

Phase Two of the Project is Now Complete...,

There go my boy again....,

Working with only the four basic nucleotides that make up all DNA—adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine—he has assembled an entirely new chromosome for an entirely new one-celled creature. Insert that genome into a cell—like inserting a disc into a computer—and a new species of living thing will be booted up. Venter hasn't done that yet, which is why even he won't say that he has technically invented life. He has, however, already shown that a genome transplanted from an existing cell to another will shut down the host's genetic programming and bring its own online. If that cellular body-snatching works with an ordinary chromosome, there's little reason to think it won't with a manufactured one. "The fact that this is even possible is mind-boggling to most people," Venter says.

That's not an overstatement. The genome in Venter's lab in Rockville, Md., could revolutionize genetics, introducing a new world order in which the alchemy of life is broken down into the ultimate engineering project. Man-made genomes could lead to new species that churn out drugs to treat disease, finely tuned vaccines that target just the right lethal bug, even cells that convert sunlight into a biofuel.