Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Custom genomes: coming soon to an organism near you

The first Endy lab paper has just been published: "Refactoring bacteriophage T7". That's quite a milestone for freshly-minted professors [I think].

However, quite apart from the symbolic significance, the contents of the paper are pretty damn important too [even accounting for my obvious bias =)]. The short version: Leon, Sri and Drew rearranged and changed 30% of the genome of a [harmless] virus called T7 that infects E. coli bacteria. Why did they do this ? To test how much we really know about this virus, and make it easier to do experiments on it. While that's a laudable goal in and of itself, what's so cool about this is that it's the first time anybody has really made such extensive and [more importantly] human-designed changes to the DNA of an organism [without killing it]. Like the associated "News and Views" article says:

[...], the restructuring of the T7 genome by Chan et al represents an important step toward the intentional design and construction of artificial living systems.

In other words: we're starting to be able to create custom-designed lifeforms. That should give you some pause for thought.


Blogger Me said...

quite informative post...keep it up....

7:56 PM  

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