Most experts agree to the fact that J Craig Venter’s laboratories have achieved a ground-breaking achievement and give the credit to Mr. Venter but disagree over the claim that the cells are world’s first manmade living cells.
Experts say that Venter’s team did not create life from scratch in the experiment. In the experiment, the team mapped the genome of bacteria called Mycoplasma mycoides for a long time. The Genome is made of chemicals and contains DNA that carries the genetic information for the cell.
The team then manufactured the genome of the bacteria in a step by step process. The genome developed by the team was identical to the biological but for some ‘signatures’ that are used to differentiate it from originals. It was then inserted into other bacteria after the bacteria’s own genome had been taken out.
Mr. Venter explained, “As soon as the genome goes into the cell, it starts making new proteins encoded in its DNA and converts it into a new synthetic species. It’s a completely synthetic cell now, it has replicated over a billion times. The only DNA it has now is the synthetic one that we made.”
The synthetic M mycoides genome that is introduced into a bacterial cell becomes an M mycoides. The bacteria when replicates, its offspring also have the synthetic genome
Mr. Venter claims that this is an example of synthetic life however the other experts discard the claim by saying that the cell is not artificial even if the genome is and also it is not a new form of life but an exact copy of the M mycoides genome.
Nobel laureate Paul Nurse from the UK said to a new channel, “Venter’s work is a major advance. But it’s not a creation of synthetic life… Creation of synthetic life would be to make an entire bacterial cell through chemicals.”
The nurse believes that the technology to create an entirely new cell from scratch will take a long time to evolve. “In an earlier attempt, Venter’s team got just one genetic ‘letter’ wrong out of a million and this cell simply didn’t function,” he added.
Some earlier attempts by other scientists have created some bits and pieces of DNA but not the extent of this experiment. The experiment went on for a decade and required $40 million to achieve the creation of the genome. The creation of the next such genome will require much lesser time because of the experiment.
Mr. Venter now aims to create a micro-organism. He is already known for mapping the human genome.