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LIFE SCIENCE TECHNOLOGIES: Synthetic Genomics - Building a Better Bacterium

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Science  25 Mar 2011:
Vol. 331, Issue 6024, pp. 1628-1630
DOI: 10.1126/science.331.6024.1628


The May 20, 2010, online edition of Science magazine contained pieces on Brownian motion and gravitational waves, small RNAs and drug delivery--items of interest to narrow slices of the research community. One article, though, generated instant worldwide attention. Entitled "Creation of a bacterial cell controlled by a chemically synthesized genome," the report detailed the world's first "synthetic cell," and it was at once praised and panned. Watchdog groups weighed in, as did U.S. President Barack Obama. Powered by advances in DNA synthesis and genome manipulation, the study was merely a proof-of-principle: Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 has no practical scientific or commercial value. Yet its cobalt blue colonies represent the living embodiment of an entirely new, and previously unimaginable, branch of biology. Welcome to the age of synthetic genomics.