Scientists in the US say they have made a major step towards creating artificial life.
The researchers built their own genes to create life-like bacteria. They constructed a bacterium’s synthetic DNA, then transplanted it into a host cell. After a few false starts, the new microbe behaved in a manner consistent with life, including replicating itself in a laboratory research dish.
The pioneer who led the research, Dr Craig Venter, said the technology could bring great benefits:
“We need new tools of science, and biology represents one of the means to provide new sources of fuel by capturing carbon dioxide, new sources of food, new sources of medicine, new vaccines.”
The scientists have spent 15 years and spent more than 30 million euros trying to make a synthetic life form. But critics monitoring genetic technologies have warned that playing God could be dangerous, causing pollution or even making biological weapons.
President Obama has ordered a report from bioethics advisers on the implications.