Thursday, May 20, 2010

Scientists create artificial life

Today was a milestone for biotechnology. J. Craig Venter and his team successfully created an artificial life form, for the first time in human history. I think this is the most important development in biotechnology since the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003. The ramifications of this are enormous.

Eventually, we could create microbes that eat pollution, microbes that we ingest to keep us healthy, microbes to destroy insects and other pests, and microbes that we use to terraform other worlds by developing a biosphere. The downsides are pretty steep as well; I think it's only a matter of time before someone intentionally or inadvertently creates nasty new diseases.

These things aren't going to happen immediately. The life form that was created today is very crude. While it (mostly) does what its DNA was "programmed" to do, scientists are still many years from being able to create organisms capable of doing our bidding.

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