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Rewriting life’s code: Researchers want to synthesize the entire human genome

| | April 6, 2018

[Researcher George] Church is one of the leaders of an initiative called the Genome Project-­Write, or GP-Write, which is organizing the efforts of hundreds of scientists around the world who are working to synthesize the DNA of a variety of organisms.

Church and others who are working to synthesize human DNA have created their own effort…and its prospects for success have biologists abuzz over the potential for treating diseases and for creating bioengineered cells and possibly even organs. Critics, though, are scratching their heads over the technical challenges, high costs, and practicality…

 

Theoretically, scientists could one day manufacture genomes, human or otherwise, almost as easily as writing code on a computer, transforming digital DNA on someone’s laptop into living cells.

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Church and his team are forging ahead. “We want to start with a human Y,” he says, referring to the male sex chromosome, which he explains has the fewest genes of a person’s 23 chromo­somes and is thus easier to build.

How this will play out in future years and decades is anyone’s guess. But the tools are being forged right now that might make it possible to do far more than add a few improvements, says bioengineer Pam Silver of Harvard: “The driver is your imagination.”

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