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The recent closed-door meeting about creating genomes from scratch prompted a lot of hand-wringing among scientists and other critics fearful of a future full of lab-grown humans.
But such a science fiction scenario is not what the work is all about, researchers and entrepreneurs who attended the meeting told STAT. Synthesizing genomes should help scientists better understand the fundamentals of biology and disease, they said.
The genome contains the instructions for life. And while scientists can decipher the complete sequence of DNA that makes up a human genome, trying to build the 3 billion nucleotides letter by letter would be a test of how much we know about it.
“Moving beyond reading DNA to writing DNA is a natural next step,” Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told STAT in an email.
Pamela Silver, a Harvard bioengineer who was invited to but did not attend the meeting, said that taking the genome apart (with new gene-editing techniques like CRISPR) and putting it together (through synthesis) are “complementary” methods: “No one is better than the other.”
Read full, original post: Forget the sci-fi horror stories: Here’s what we could really learn from a synthetic genome