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Author Topic: Gray Goo Apocalypse here we come...  (Read 1351 times)

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The 6th Rogue

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Gray Goo Apocalypse here we come...
« on: May 20, 10, 09:11:37 pm CDT »

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10132762.stm?ls

Scientists in the US have succeeded in developing the first synthetic living cell.

The researchers constructed a bacterium's "genetic software" and transplanted it into a host cell.

The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species "dictated" by the synthetic DNA.

The advance, published in Science, has been hailed as a scientific landmark, but critics say there are dangers posed by synthetic organisms.

The researchers hope eventually to design bacterial cells that will produce medicines and fuels and even absorb greenhouse gases.

Craig Venter defends the synthetic living cell

The team was led by Dr Craig Venter of the J Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Maryland and California.

He and his colleagues had previously made a synthetic bacterial genome, and transplanted the genome of one bacterium into another.

Now, the scientists have put both methods together, to create what they call a "synthetic cell", although only its genome is truly synthetic.

Dr Venter likened the advance to making new software for the cell.

The researchers copied an existing bacterial genome. They sequenced its genetic code and then used "synthesis machines" to chemically construct a copy.

Dr Venter told BBC News: "We've now been able to take our synthetic chromosome and transplant it into a recipient cell - a different organism.

"As soon as this new software goes into the cell, the cell reads [it] and converts into the species specified in that genetic code."

The new bacteria replicated over a billion times, producing copies that contained and were controlled by the constructed, synthetic DNA.

"This is the first time any synthetic DNA has been in complete control of a cell," said Dr Venter.
'New industrial revolution'

Dr Venter and his colleagues hope eventually to design and build new bacteria that will perform useful functions.

"I think they're going to potentially create a new industrial revolution," he said.

"If we can really get cells to do the production that we want, they could help wean us off oil and reverse some of the damage to the environment by capturing carbon dioxide."

Dr Venter and his colleagues are already collaborating with pharmaceutical and fuel companies to design and develop chromosomes for bacteria that would produce useful fuels and new vaccines.

But critics say that the potential benefits of synthetic organisms have been overstated.

Dr Helen Wallace from Genewatch UK, an organisation that monitors developments in genetic technologies, told BBC News that synthetic bacteria could be dangerous.

"If you release new organisms into the environment, you can do more harm than good," she said.

"By releasing them into areas of pollution, [with the aim of cleaning it up], you're actually releasing a new kind of pollution.

"We don't know how these organisms will behave in the environment."

Julian Savulescu Oxford University ethics professor Profile: Craig Venter Ethics concern over synthetic cell

Dr Wallace accused Dr Venter of playing down the potential drawbacks.

"He isn't God," she said, "he's actually being very human; trying to get money invested in his technology and avoid regulation that would restrict its use."

But Dr Venter said that he was "driving the discussions" about the regulations governing this relatively new scientific field and about the ethical implications of the work.

He said: "In 2003, when we made the first synthetic virus, it underwent an extensive ethical review that went all the way up to the level of the White House.

"And there have been extensive reviews including from the National Academy of Sciences, which has done a comprehensive report on this new field.

"We think these are important issues and we urge continued discussion that we want to take part in."
Ethical discussions

Dr Gos Micklem, a geneticist from the University of Cambridge, said that the advance was "undoubtedly a landmark" study.

But, he said, "there is already a wealth of simple, cheap, powerful and mature techniques for genetically engineering a range of organisms. Therefore, for the time being, this approach is unlikely to supplant existing methods for genetic engineering".

The ethical discussions surrounding the creation of synthetic or artificial life are set to continue.

Professor Julian Savulescu, from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said the potential of this science was "in the far future, but real and significant".

"But the risks are also unparalleled," he continued. "We need new standards of safety evaluation for this kind of radical research and protections from military or terrorist misuse and abuse.

"These could be used in the future to make the most powerful bioweapons imaginable. The challenge is to eat the fruit without the worm."

The advance did not pose a danger in the form of bio-terrorism, Dr Venter said.

"That was reviewed extensively in the US in a report from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Washington defence think tank, indicating that there were very small new dangers from this.

"Most people are in agreement that there is a slight increase in the potential for harm. But there's an exponential increase in the potential benefit to society," he told BBC's Newsnight.

"The flu vaccine you'll get next year could be developed by these processes," he added.
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The 6th Rogue

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Pathos

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Re: Gray Goo Apocalypse here we come...
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 10, 09:45:22 pm CDT »

I guess they're gonna' release it in the gulf to combat the oil spill?

And it begins...

 8)
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The 6th Rogue

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Re: Gray Goo Apocalypse here we come...
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 10, 08:25:41 am CDT »

32 hours later it'll be asking for citizenship and equal rights, I'm sure.

Now if we could engineer it to turn crude directly into gasoline which it would store in it's cells to toxic levels and then die off and clump so we could collected it easy and then squeeze it for the gas...that would be awesome!  I bet the gas companies would charge more for gas made that way even though it wouldn't cost them 1/3 as much to do it.
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Maggie

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Re: Gray Goo Apocalypse here we come...
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 10, 09:00:26 am CDT »

32 hours later it'll be asking for citizenship and equal rights, I'm sure.



And Lord knows there will be a passel of people protesting and making sure it gets those right.   ::)
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Re: Gray Goo Apocalypse here we come...
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 10, 09:46:24 am CDT »

Great next give the damned robots guns  ;)
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