The J. Craig Venter Institute has just announced the creation of the first bacterial cell controlled by a genome that is entirely chemically synthesized (PDF). The group has been working towards this goal for several years now, first working out how to synthesize and assemble such large pieces of DNA and how to transplant a genome from one organism to another. This result puts it all together, a synthetic version of the genome of the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides and transplantation into a Mycoplasma capricolum cell. This synthetic cell is almost identical to a natural M. mycoides, but also includes a “watermark” sequence in the genome, identifying it as synthetic and the work of the Venter Institute.
This is certain to be a huge story, and I’ll probably write more in-depth on it later but I just wanted to share the exciting news right away. For now, I want to just emphasize that this is a huge and awesome technical achievement, although it’s still far from what I would call “synthetic life.” What do you think about the ability to synthesize genomes? Where do you think this is going to lead in five years, ten years, fifty years?