Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dystopian Now: the future is here - just not evenly distributed

CSMonitor | Dr. Church told The Washington Post that the meeting wasn’t open to the public or to media because its theme overlapped with a paper written by many scientists that’s pending publication in a major scientific journal. The organizers didn’t want to be accused of "science by press release," reported the Post, so decided not to share their project publicly until they had a peer-reviewed article validating their research.

"It wasn't secret. There was nothing secret or private about it," said Church, who told the Post that the video of the event will be released when the scientific paper is published, likely soon.

Church also said that the project is not aimed at creating people, only cells, and not just for human genomes, despite that an invitation to the meeting at Harvard said that the primary goal “would be to synthesize a complete human genome in a cell line within a period of 10 years,” as the Times reports.

There has been tremendous progress in genomics since scientists finished sequencing the entire human genome in 2003. As the Times reports:
Scientists and companies can now change the DNA in cells, for example, by adding foreign genes or changing the letters in the existing genes. This technique is routinely used to make drugs, such as insulin for diabetes, inside genetically modified cells, as well as to make genetically modified crops. And scientists are now debating the ethics of new technology that might allow genetic changes to be made in embryos. But synthesizing a gene, or an entire genome, would provide the opportunity to make even more extensive changes in DNA.
A team headed by genomics pioneer J. Craig Venter first synthesized the chromosome of one bacterium in 2010 and inserted it into another species, thereby replacing the host species's DNA. The result, named Syn 1.0, was a microbial cell that was able to replicate and make a new set of proteins, powered by its synthetic genome, as the Monitor has reported.