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'Artificial life' comes step closer

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'Artificial life' comes step closer

 

By Roland Pease

BBC radio science unit

 

Researchers at Rockefeller University in the US have made the first tentative steps towards creating a form of artificial life.

 

Their creations, small synthetic vesicles that can process (express) genes, resemble a crude kind of biological cell.

 

The parts for their "vesicle bioreactors", as they call them, all come from diverse realms of life.

 

The soft cell walls are made of fat molecules taken from egg white. The cell contents are an extract of the common gut bug E. coli , stripped of all its genetic material.

 

This essence of life contains ready-made much of the biological machinery needed to make proteins; the researchers also added an enzyme from a virus to allow the vesicle to translate DNA code.

 

When they added genes, the cell fluid started to make proteins, just like a normal cell would.

 

Jelly fish

 

A gene for green fluorescent protein taken from a species of jellyfish was the first they tried. The glow from the protein showed that the genes were being transcribed.

 

With a second gene, from the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus , the researchers got their cells to make small pores in their walls.

 

These let nutrients in from the surrounding "soup", so that the cells could function, in some instances, for several days.

 

Albert Libchaber, who heads the project, stresses that these bioreactors are not alive - they're performing simple chemical reactions that can also happen in cell-free biological fluids.

 

But the research is one strand in a new field called synthetic biology, where the aim is to re-design entire organisms, or recreate them from scratch.

 

The bio-entrepreneur Craig Venter, who headed the commercial venture to decode the human genome, is currently trying to strip a bacterium down to the minimum set of genes needed for survival.

 

Synthetic virus

 

Two years ago, another team showed that polio viruses could assemble themselves from off-the-shelf chemical components mixed in a test-tube.

 

And several chemists are exploring the kinds of chemical reactions that may have preceded life.

 

Albert Libchaber's hope is to build up towards a minimal synthetic organism, with a designed cell wall, and a mixture of gene circuits that would let it maintain itself like a living cell.

 

As these constructs become more lifelike, the rest of us will have to start rethinking the nature of life.

 

"This is rather philosophical," says Dr Libchaber.

 

"For me, life is just like a machine - a machine with a computer program. There's no more to it than that. But not everyone shares this point of view," he told the BBC.

 

He also stresses that there is no danger in the experiments. Not only are his cells artificial, they can function only in the nutrient medium he supplies them.

 

He said: "If you take our system out of its environment, it just doesn't function."

 

Details of Libchaber's work with Vincent Noireaux have been published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

Story from BBC NEWS:

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Published: 2004/12/18 07:43:23 GMT

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PropellerAds

WOW, thats is really cool... the advances that we have made in science, this was only a matter of time. This can lead to so many great discoveries. THe more they know and understand how the cell functions and how DNA/RNA replicates, they know how it happens, but if if they reproduce it, they can find cures for cancer and AIDS. I know IBM has thier Blue Gene project, one of the things they are trying to do is make the proteins folds, the 3D picture of a protein and the folds and this can lead to who know what.

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salam

 

i wonder what the scientists aims are regarding artifical life, it seems a bit of a waste of time to me

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:D

 

"Computers are useless. They can only give you answers."

Pablo Picasso

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:D

 

No offense Venier, but I hardly like Picasso's art, I wouldn't really believe anythin he speaks. :D :D

 

True bro Zainuddin.. :P I wonder if scientists ever reach a point where they realize this is useless though. :D

 

:P

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:D

 

They're going full circle.

 

But it's good if they plan on rebuilding say lost limbs, and not "designer babies/creatures"

 

:D

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:D

 

No offense Venier, but I hardly like Picasso's art, I wouldn't really believe anythin he speaks. :P :D

 

 

 

If you look at the Guernica paint... is so actual.

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:D

 

I think artificial life is still far aways. docs haven't yet perfected organ transplants, life is still a dream that won't come true.

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Assalaamu Alaikum,

 

I don't know if it is relevant to this discussion or not but I just wanted to say that they can never create life, all they can do is create something from something else, i.e. cells, and these cells etc. are already living. What I mean is that they can never create something which is living from nothing.

 

Was-Salaamu Alaikum,

 

Abu Suhaylah.

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salam

 

i wonder what the scientists aims are regarding artifical life, it seems a bit of a waste of time to me

 

 

Salaam,

 

It may help them in researching new forms of cures or make "dummies" to test medicine>. Anyways immortality is useless. Even with cloning they saw it's like immortality, but how the heck is it immortality when you just have person that looks like you and have your memories, but isn't you? Every soul tastes death.

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Assalaamu Alaikum,

 

I don't know if it is relevant to this discussion or not but I just wanted to say that they can never create life, all they can do is create something from something else, i.e. cells, and these cells etc. are already living.  What I mean is that they can never create something which is living from nothing.

 

Was-Salaamu Alaikum,

 

Abu Suhaylah.

 

Agree with ya 100%

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Salaam,

 

It may help them in researching new forms of cures or make "dummies" to test medicine>. Anyways immortality is useless. Even with cloning they saw it's like immortality, but how the heck is it immortality when you just have person that looks like you and have your memories, but isn't you? Every soul tastes death.

 

as dar i know clone don't have the same memories. they have live & form thier own memories. they have the same physical & mental strength as the donor.

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:D

 

What if they build someone with, arms, legs and head, body, will it be alive? Will it have a soul? Can it have a soul?

 

:D

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