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Scientists have gone beyond genetic engineering, which is simply manipulating or swaping a few genes here and there, and created a new life form from chemicals. We now have "synthetic biology" dawning before us.
"IN THE end there was no castle, no thunderstorm and definitely no hunchbacked cackling lab assistant. Nevertheless, Craig Venter, Hamilton Smith and their colleagues have done for real what Mary Shelley merely imagined. On May 20th, in the pages of Science, they announced that they had created a living creature.
Like Shelley’s protagonist, Dr Venter and Dr Smith needed some spare parts from dead bodies to make their creature work. Unlike Victor Frankenstein, though, they needed no extra spark of Promethean lightning to give the creature its living essence. Instead they made that essence, a piece of DNA that carries about 1,000 genes, from off-the-shelf laboratory chemicals. The result is the first creature since the beginning of creatures that has no ancestor. What it is, and how it lives, depends entirely on a design put together by scientists of the J. Craig Venter Institute and held on the institute’s computers in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, California. When the first of these artificial creatures showed that it could reproduce on its own, the age of artificial life began."