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Synthetic Genome Reboots Cell

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Synthetic cell

Science / AAAS

In the culmination of a project spanning 15 years, scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have engineered the first cell controlled by a synthetic genome."

This is the first time that the information of a genome sequence has been turned back into life," says Chris Voigt, a synthetic biologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the project. "It's really remarkable."

Using a method developed in 2008, the researchers, led by genomics pioneer Craig Venter, synthesized the genome of a tiny bacterium called Mycoplasma mycoides, containing just over a million DNA base pairs. Next they transplanted the synthetic genome into a related bacterium, Mycoplasma capricolum, in a process they had previously perfected using nonsynthetic chromosomes.

Once the recipient cells incorporated the synthetic genome, they immediately began to carry out the instructions encoded within the genome. The cells manufactured only M. mycoides proteins, and within a few rounds of self-replication, all traces of the recipient species were gone. The results were published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Science.

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