Creating artificial life and what we want from it—including resistance ‘to all known pathogens’

| | January 10, 2019
Image: U.S. Army Photo by Eric Proctor and Autumn Kulaga
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

For some scientists, [synthetic biology] will have created artificial life if it can arrange DNA into new combinations on a large scale — adding or subtracting hundreds of genes at a time, rather than the single-gene edits now possible with genetic engineering. These manipulations will push the boundaries of what life can be, creating new forms and functions.

For others, the ultimate goal is more elemental: to use the tools of synthetic biology to learn about life’s origins or figure out what to look for in the search for life on other planets. This definition of artificial life requires that scientists make all the parts and assemble them with a much deeper understanding of how each component works.

Down the line, [geneticist George] Church has far grander ideas. In a decade or more, he predicts, we’ll have “mirror life,” organisms whose proteins fold in opposite configurations, making them immune to viruses, predators, and enzymes, which would be unable to recognize them. Applications might eventually include biodegradation-resistant cotton, silk, wood, and ropes, which would render ineffective the digestive enzymes of fungi, worms, insects, and bacteria. Perhaps someday, we’ll have mirror-image plant or animal cells which would be completely resistant to all known pathogens.

Related article:  Video: Lab-grown human heart tissue beats ‘like the real thing’

For Church and others like him, these marvels of bioengineering are the real payoff of synthetic biology and the quest for artificial life.

Read full, original post: Inside the race to build life from scratch

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
a a b b a f ac a

Video: Death by COVID: The projected grim toll in historical context

The latest statistics, as of July 10, show COVID-19-related deaths in U.S. are just under 1,000 per day nationally, which is ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
types of oak trees

Infographic: Power of evolution? How oak trees came to dominate North American forests

Over the course of some 56 million years, oaks, which all belong to the genus Quercus, evolved from a single undifferentiated ...
biotechnology worker x

Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops?

Some scientists and ecologists argue that humans are in the midst of an "extinction crisis" — the sixth wave of ...
food globe x

Are GMOs necessary to feed the world?

Experts estimate that agricultural production needs to roughly double in the coming decades. How can that be achieved? ...
eating gmo corn on the cob x

Are GMOs safe?

In 2015, 15 scientists and activists issued a statement, "No Scientific consensus on GMO safety," in the journal Environmental Sciences ...
Screen Shot at PM

Charles Benbrook: Agricultural economist and consultant for the organic industry and anti-biotechnology advocacy groups

Independent scientists rip Benbrook's co-authored commentary in New England Journal calling for reassessment of dangers of all GMO crops and herbicides ...
Screen Shot at PM

ETC Group: ‘Extreme’ biotechnology critic campaigns against synthetic biology and other forms of ‘extreme genetic engineering’

The ETC Group is an international environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada whose stated purpose is to monitor "the impact of emerging technologies and ...
Share via
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend