Another step closer to artificial life - an artificial chromosome.
Geneticist Craig Venter of San Diego, California has made a significant breakthrough in genetics and bioengineering after it's been verified by the scientific community (I have to throw that disclaimer for reasons that'll be made clear in a moment)... he's built a chromosome out of raw materials in vitro.
Yeah. Not only did Venter's team, lead by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Hamilton O. Smith hooked synthetic nucleotides together one by one into a strand of DNA 580,000 base pairs in length, coding for 381 distinct genes, and then got the DNA to coil up into a chromosome. The synthetic chromosome is based upon a pared down version of the genome of the bacterium mycoplasma genitalium - to get a reference DNA sequence to copy, they removed roughly 20% of the genome to get at the nitty-gritty genes necessary to support life. If they can successfully transplant the artificial genome into a cell, the cell will take off on its own, eating, excreting, and reproducing with a genetic structure built by the hand of man.
If I can get my hands on the actual whitepaper for this, I'm definitely going to post it as a sequel to this entry. This is a significant step toward making true artificial life - genetic code from scratch.
(experimentally written with BloGTK. Category selection and keywording don't work, and it also messed with paragraph formatting and layout.)