The J. Craig Venter Institute this week announced the creation of the first synthetically created lifeform – a self-replicating bacteria cell. Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 was created by synthesizing the 1.08 million base pair chromosome of a modified Mycoplasma mycoides genome. Daniel G. Gibson et al published the results in Science Express.
Dr. Gibson stated, “To produce a synthetic cell, our group had to learn how to sequence, synthesize, and transplant genomes. Many hurdles had to be overcome, but we are now able to combine all of these steps to produce synthetic cells in the laboratory.” He added, “We can now begin working on our ultimate objective of synthesizing a minimal cell containing only the genes necessary to sustain life in its simplest form. This will help us better understand how cells work.”
The synthetic lifeform marks a major moral step in scientific advancement. Although the technologies utilised in this research have been developing for some time, the replication of an entirely manufactured cell challenges the meaning which human beings attach to the concept of life. However, it is not likely that there will be much opposition to the continued research on bacteria and yeast. Moral opposition will not be an issue until experiments are conducted with much more complicated, higher forms of life. That is unlikely to happen for many years.