Synthetic biologists from the J. Craig Venter Institute in Maryland have announced that they have synthetically reproduced the DNA of the bacteria called Mycoplasma laboratorium. With this significant step in their research, they hope to go on to create an entire synthetic organism.
The ultimate goal, the researchers say, is to create an artificial life form based entirely on a man-made DNA genome. Not only would this achievement mark a milestone for humanity, but it could also bring about solutions to practical problems, such as diseases, energy, and global warming.
Now that the researchers have created the DNA of Mycoplasma laboratorium, the last step to creating synthetic life is to transplant the DNA into a living cell where it will take control over the cell and turn into an entirely new life form. In the future, researchers could choose the genome sequence to transplant into cells, determining the characteristics and abilities of the synthetic organism.
In early 2007, the Venter Institute announced the first fully-sequenced genome of an individual, which was Venter's himself. The institute has also evoked controversy for filing a patent on a single-cell organism, called "Synthia," which claims exclusive ownership of a set of its genes.
As one of the world's leaders in the field of synthetic genomics, the Venter Institute doesn't plan to stop until it has achieved its ultimate goal: the creation of synthetic life. While some critics are skeptical, the Venter researchers don't expect that day to be all that far away.