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Author Topic: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.  (Read 1834 times)

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Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

The Craig Venter Institute has synthesized a complete genome, introduced it to a recipient cell, and thereby has created the first life-form (capable of reproduction and everything) with a completely synthetic genome. Moments like these are what make me love science.

Read the abstract and download the article here!

Offline Kurzyk

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2010, 08:21:55 PM »
It scares the hell out of me, and not in a fun way. The ramifications of creating artificial life in the long term is a dangerous thing.

Offline Paladin

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Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2010, 08:53:11 PM »
With great power such as this comes great responsibility not to misuse it... unfortunatly Humanity as a whole is not known for showing responsibility. I truely believe we will eventually invent our own distuction.

Offline Trouble

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2010, 09:35:10 PM »
My first reaction to this was, "Holy shit, that's awesome! 8D ... Now, what can it do?"

But, by my second reaction, I made my inner fanboy shut up. Realistically, this isn't a whole lot different from what we already do. Most of the food we eat is already genetically altered on some level, either by artificial breeding (you know, breeding the fattest chickens to make bigger chickens) or genetic engineering (finding out the fat chicken gene and replicating it).

This honestly isn't much different, except it's completely artificial instead of just using genes and genetics. Personally, I'm interested in hearing what they plan to do with this new technology.

Offline Jude

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2010, 10:39:41 PM »
I think the idea that humanity is accidentally going to create something that isn't meant to be by dabbling in synthetic organisms is based on a faulty premise:  remember, nature has no plan or consciousness, everything that exists is the result of minuscule, random deviants in the genetic code.  I doubt human beings will ever be able to give rise to some sort of creature that, in the lottery of life, couldn't have eventually existed anyway; though I suppose it's possible.

Even if that does occur, remember that nature is not so fragile.

Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2010, 10:45:32 PM »
I will never understand this panicky alarmism, what Asimov termed mankind's 'Frankenstein complex'. Please stop fearing what you don't understand and rather try to understand it.

As much as I am often at odds with Jude, on this point I think we are in complete agreement.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2010, 11:19:13 PM by DarklingAlice »

Offline Galanthor

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2010, 02:50:10 AM »
I think the idea that humanity is accidentally going to create something that isn't meant to be by dabbling in synthetic organisms is based on a faulty premise:  remember, nature has no plan or consciousness, everything that exists is the result of minuscule, random deviants in the genetic code.  I doubt human beings will ever be able to give rise to some sort of creature that, in the lottery of life, couldn't have eventually existed anyway; though I suppose it's possible.

Even if that does occur, remember that nature is not so fragile.

Can you prove that there is no higher being? That there is no plan of nature?

I fear mankind will use it to create some sort of super soldiers, being enslaved only to kill themselves....or will change their own code stop being humans ever again

Offline Braioch

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Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2010, 03:38:56 AM »
Can you prove that there is no higher being? That there is no plan of nature?

I fear mankind will use it to create some sort of super soldiers, being enslaved only to kill themselves....or will change their own code stop being humans ever again

Which of course leads into the old circular argument of whether or not you can prove there is a higher being or plan of nature.

But that's served in the religion board I think.

I believe Darkling and Jude make fair points, it would be very hard for humans to create something like that that couldn't already have happened somewhere along the way. After all, they would only be taking materials from elsewhere and putting them together, it isn't as if they could create something out of nothing. Basic rule of energy works for other things in that regard.

For that matter, this kind of thing is still very much in it's infancy, so worrying about something like that is kind of a moot point really. We can't really speculate which way it is going to go, the problem with technology and morality nowadays is that people have been stuck far too long in the past with both things. It's just a case of the fact that now we have technology and power accelerating faster than morality has been. Though humanity has been showing signs of it's morality beginning to climb finally.

Now when I first heard this I believe earlier today on TV or the radio or wherever it was, I'll admit I was kind of impressed. The kinds of things that we could (humans being we) do with this sort of advancement could really open up a lot in the science and medical field. I'm curious to see where they go with it.

Offline Jude

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2010, 04:57:32 PM »
Can you prove that there is no higher being? That there is no plan of nature?

I fear mankind will use it to create some sort of super soldiers, being enslaved only to kill themselves....or will change their own code stop being humans ever again
Assume there is a higher being.  Then if this higher being is omniscient, they had to be aware that humanity would eventually gain the ability to create synthetic organisms and altered their creation for that contingency, thus there's nothing to worry about.  If this being is not omniscient, then there are already errors in the "plan" so humanity introducing a few of our own can't hurt, right?

Assume there is a plan of nature.  Then humanity's evolution is part of it, and thus humanity is part of nature, as is our ability to create synthetic organisms.  Thus this is still within the realm of nature's plan, so there's nothing to worry about.

Or in a more general sense:  if you believe in a designed universe, you must remember that we were designed with the potential for this capacity.  If the designer failed to account for our capacity to do this, is that not a flaw in the design?  If you believe your designer, whether you consider it to be nature or god, to be flawless, then our having this capability cannot be a defect.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2010, 05:00:42 PM by Jude »

Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2010, 05:32:38 PM »
Can you prove that there is no higher being? That there is no plan of nature?

No. Nor can you prove there is one. And even if you could you could not prove that the actions of mankind are against the will of said higher being or the plan of nature. Ontologically positive claims of noumenal truths are utterly baseless. They can be taken as articles of faith but not of dogma. And in the lack of proof, we must proceed as though there were not a higher being.

And that is the final word on this matter in this thread.

Galanthor and Jude, if you want to discuss this I would be very interested to see it. But it belongs somewhere else. Please take any further discussion of the matter to Politics & Religion.

Offline Zakharra

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2010, 06:02:04 PM »
We're much more likely to make a virus that kills us than a superrace of men that overruns and replaces humanity as the leading species on this planet.

Offline Braioch

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Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2010, 07:45:26 PM »
We're much more likely to make a virus that kills us than a superrace of men that overruns and replaces humanity as the leading species on this planet.

See now that I could see a bit more. Though I would lay it more along the lines of someone using said virus as a weapon and less of being an accidental exposure thing.

Offline Kurzyk

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2010, 09:23:20 PM »
My concern has nothing to do with religion, or how we work with nature. I have no problem with learning nature's patterns and manipulating our surroundings to improve quality of life. Nor am I "panicky" or alarmist.

My concern is more the ethics of if we created life, how would we treat it? Would it be subservient to us? What would the sociological ramifications be. Sure today its very small, but consider this study a hundred years from now. What are the ethics of creating a race of beings? How long would they be subservient? Could they pose a threat?

I don't stand in the way of change, as that would be futile and unhealthy. But I suggest caution. This isn't a toaster we're talking about.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2010, 09:47:51 PM by Kurzyk »

Offline DarklingAliceTopic starter

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2010, 10:59:30 PM »
Three brief points, these will be short since I am on my phone and at a D&D game.

1. Take another look at the abstract. This is not a new type of life. The big thing here is that this is the first wholly synthetic life.

2. If we were to actually create new forms of life, why does everyone seem to assume it will fall into what we generally classify as sapient?

3. Why is there an assumption that we would treat new hypothetical life any differently than we already treat life. Life is life, the same ethical standards are in play. I think we generally tend to treat life horribly, 'sapient' or not, I am not sure why anyone would assume our attitude would change towards a new form.

Offline Acinonyx

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2010, 04:15:19 AM »
This is an interesting discussion to spring forth from the mere process of artificially copying a very simplistic genome and putting it into a different organism's dead cell to turn it into another.

This is a first, very complex step that merely artificially rebuilt a genome and needed a host cell to pull it off. If the organism survives to the point that it'll only be made of material encoded by the artificial DNA, that's pretty awesome. In terms of the technique and complexity of the endeavour the experiment is breathtaking, but it's really not having any spectacular implications yet - only some hopes for medicine and for understanding more about variety and the minimal requirements for life. 

Offline NotoriusBEN

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2010, 01:34:44 AM »
that's all well and nice that we've created synthetic life, but I gotta ask the practical question:

How close are we to this? (brownie points if you know what Im talking about :P)


Offline Arion

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2010, 12:40:21 AM »
Wait, isn't that from Weird Science?

Offline Martinx31

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2010, 07:27:52 AM »
that's all well and nice that we've created synthetic life, but I gotta ask the practical question:

How close are we to this? (brownie points if you know what Im talking about :P)


Brownie points Please:3

Offline Paladin

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Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #18 on: June 27, 2010, 11:32:42 AM »
Yea its weird science. ;)

Offline NotoriusBEN

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2010, 12:46:42 AM »
delicious... mind alter- er...
...
...

delicious brownie points for all.

Offline Ket

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Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2010, 08:44:31 AM »
This is interesting. I'm putting a place holder here so I remember to come back and read it this afternoon.

Offline Ryven

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Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2010, 04:29:40 PM »
 <3 Kelly LeBrock

Offline electrichigh

Re: IT'S ALIVE! First organism with a completely synthetic genome.
« Reply #22 on: June 29, 2010, 02:27:00 PM »
Its a BACTERIA, there are plenty of bacteria around that have been genetically altered with parts of synthetic genomes, all the drugs you use, paracetomal, pain killers, other medications are all synthesised by these bacteria. Food parts like gluten, and tons of other addatives are all synthesised in this way. There is bugger all that can be done with this apart from making chemicals. Making multicellular organisms are millions of years away. This is purely a novilty to show that it can be done. Plus these genes wouldn't be synthetic anyway, they wouldn't have written them they would have taken them from other bacteria and copied them, which to be honest because all bacteria share so much of their genome anyway.

As a biologist I just can't understand the fear behind this, they aren't going to create some huge monster, they don't even have the freaking teachnology to make a bacteria right because I can guarentee they wont understand how the genes interact properly and there will be mistakes in this synthetic genome.