Cellular Biology

Synthetic Life Chemistry Science Arsenic Bacteria j Craig Venter



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I had read an article about this subject some time  agoand was highly impressed with the researchers behind this ‘discovery’, particularly lead biologist J. Craig Venter. He is the president of you guessed it, The Venter Institute, which has four branches: The Center for Advancement of Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research, The Institute of Biological Energy Alternatives, and finally The J. Craig Venter Science Foundation Joint Technology Center. There are facilities in Maryland and California

The real story is back in May Venter announced that after experimenting for two-and-a-half years he and his team had successfully synthesized life. Now don’t go running off thinking he has the technology to build Terminators (the movie where robots take over and use robotic assassins who have organic skin). What Venter and his team were actually able to do was insert artificial genetic substances that were chemically printed and assembled into cells that began to grow and operate naturally.

Confused? Well, I’ll repeat more clearly, researchers took material that was never alive and created in laboratories placed it inside normal human cells with the hopes they would provide the cell to begin to function as if it were a regular cell, like the millions that are inside of each and every one of us.

As you can imagine, this is HUGE news. I remember first reading about it on Discovery.com, and was blown away. I immediately turned the TV on to the Discovery channel and already there was an emergency news segment with Venter speaking with several news anchors, scientists and several religious figures. The event raised so many moral issues it was astounding. What would this information be used for? Would Venter attempt to copyright the procedure and sell it, or make his own clone army? Of course, the religious figures were entirely against it and believed Dr. Venter was trying to play God.

Truth is none of those accusations panned out. Venter stated he would not be copyrighting the techniques and actually wanted to share the information with the rest of the scientific community in the hopes that others could learn and improve on what he had done.

Now it’s December of 2010 and that startling news is seven months old, but more news of a similar type has just come out to rock the world of science. About three days ago a report was released stating that a living bacteria not only could withstand the poison known as arsenic, but also actually lived on the toxin.

Mother nature always finds a way, as Jeff Goldblum’s character ‘Ian Malcolm’ stated in the movie Jurassic Park all those years ago. I’ve always agreed, after all there are microbes that NASA has studies on in space. They found that these particular microbes could survive both the deep freeze of space’s vacuum and the searing re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere. Not only did they survive, the little critters went on to reproduce as they normally would.

Back to the 'creation' of life, the idea has been proposed that scientists would use this bacteria living on arsenic and attempt to create living cells that would be able to go through the steps of evolution within the laboratory to see how the journey operates.

Jack Szostak of Harvard University is attempting to build a road that bridges chemical reactions before life has actually formed to genetic living matter. Depending on the outcome of the experiment it may validate the chance of extraterrestrial life by proving life does not need to be carbon-based. It seems living off arsenic is also a viable path for life to form.  

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More about this author: Lane Weinberg

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.jcvi.org/cms/about/bios/jcventer/
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.jcvi.org/
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2010/0521/J.-Craig-Venter-Institute-creates-first-synthetic-life-form
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminator_(character)
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_cells
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://dsc.discovery.com/
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2010/12/02/life_with_arsenic_whod_have_thought.php
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Nature
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.nasa.gov/