Scientists make synthetic life | INFJ Forum

Scientists make synthetic life

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by TinyBubbles, May 21, 2010.

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  1. TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    have you heard about this? it's amazing!! they've created a completely synthetic genome and transformed it into a bacterium, which went on to make millions of synthetic copies. i knew they could make stretches of DNA artificially & have them expressed, but i didn't realize they were at the level were they could manufacture an entire genome! this is just the beginning, i'm sure.. in a few years, synthetic organisms will replace many traditional industrial processes and completely change the way things are made :m200:we're living in exciting times !



    although, can't help but wonder about the ethical implications of this. is this "playing God" in a sense? is it wrong?

     
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  2. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Finding My Place in the Sun
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    Cool.

    Sort of - I hope they start synthesising DNA for more complex organisms - such as dinosaurs... or even new species such as griffins. (Well that last one is probably far beyond our current scientific knowledge).
     
  3. OP
    TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    haha, that'll be great, but i think it'll be many years before that's possible. still, i didn't think they'd get as far as they have in this short amount of time, so maybe i'm wrong. 2015 could see the birth of t-rex, 2.0 :D

    i think what'll happen before that is a radical change in pharmaceuticals & the purification of minerals and the like. multi-billion dollar industries; the creation of potentially many new jobs.
     
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  4. Faye

    Faye ^_^
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    THEY REPLICATED IT! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    It is about time we had the power of God in our hands.
     
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  5. WhiteWolf

    WhiteWolf Community Member

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    Craig Venter, the guy from that project giving a talk about how they did it and what's up next:


    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHIocNOHd7A&feature=channel"]YouTube- Craig Venter unveils "synthetic life"[/ame]
     
  6. enfp can be shy

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    I was following Craig Venter's work already, so am not surprised, but I like a lot to have that announced with definitiveness which can't be speculated about. As many other scientific news, the press tends to make it sound more sudden (like, they found the missing link; or they found alien life), when usually there's been a whole series of little steps for decades.
     
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  7. DoveAlexa

    DoveAlexa Chaz's Lovey Bunny
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    Ehh, from what I understand of it, DNA codes for protiens, but not the end shape of an animal. You can't, for example, take the DNA of the trunk of an elephants and stick it on a giraffe cell to make a giraffe with a trunk. There is no Trunk DNA code. Also of the growth stuff has to do with the starter cell, and because they are using already existing bacteria (they didn't synth the whole lifeform yet, but maybe soon ;) ) we are limited to the final shape of what we try and code.

    I dunno about moral problems so much as I hope they don't create a monster they cant control. Or worse, go nuts with patenting until all life, including natural species get divided up into companies as "owning" that lifeform.
     
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  8. acd

    acd Well-known member

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    I was listening to this on Science Friday NPR today... and got really scared.

    I don't like this idea. They will create something that could become uncontrollable and cause problems for the environment/biosphere. I don't think that just because it is possible to create a synthetic organism, it is guaranteed this organism can be controlled or contained.

    There is a balance to life.
    Humanity has done enough mucking that up with our Industrial Revolution. And now a new one?
     
  9. Jonathan

    Jonathan Community Member

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    Just like any advance in technology, this will definitely have its controversies. People have already been talking about the potential for terrorism (which is a bit extreme..for now, anyway, who knows what the future holds.) The main moral issue that came to mind was the idea that these life forms are synthetic. Does that mean that their lives are purely manufactured and have no value as true life forms? And, could synthetically produced creatures be ethically used for animal testing?
    There are a lot of questions, but I think that we might only find out some of the answers when the problems reveal themselves. I hope these scientists are ready to deal with whatever happens.
     
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  10. Satya

    Satya C'est la vie
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    Once the cat is out of the bag, you can't go back and put it back in. It's out. If we don't develop the technology then someone else will. There will be consequences both unintended and intended. The people who invented asbestos couldn't have imagined Mesothelioma, and the people who discovered uranium couldn't have imagined the nuclear bomb. But once the technology is out there, it isn't going to go away.
     
  11. arbygil

    arbygil Passing through

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    I don't think the question should be whether or not to use the technology once it exists; I think the question becomes, "what are the ethical solutions to the long-term implications?"

    Science loves to create, but they never know what to do with it. Someone says they've created the first Purple Monkey Dishwasher. "Great," R&D says. "What does it do?" And they shrug and wait for someone with vision to come up with practical applications. Unfortunately, no one creates the antidote before they create the problem. No one thinks beyond the "cool" factor, which gets us in trouble every time.
     
  12. Faye

    Faye ^_^
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    Life as it is evolved over billions of years. Creating something as basic as what they are making is not likely to pose a threat; it would probably be destroyed quickly outside or even inside the laboratory. The more complex single cell organisms will be better adapted to the environment, and it will not be able to compete.

    That is my guess though.
     
  13. OP
    TinyBubbles

    TinyBubbles anarchist

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    it's true, cells are cultured in very specific media & under specific conditions (pH, temp, etc.), especially for genetic engineering purposes. they'd likely die in the hostile competitive environment that exists outside a lab.
     
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  14. Flavus Aquila

    Flavus Aquila Finding My Place in the Sun
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    I know.... Genetics was one my Majors.

    The likelihood that we could "design" a viable organism unlike anything that has already lived/evolved is only slightly more likely than a tornado passing through a garbage dump and assembling a jet aircraft from scraps. Our best bet is to synthesise the gentic material from a real organism.

    I vote the wooly mamoth as the first higher-animal candidate. We, as a species, have effectively demonstrated our ability to control Wooly Mamoths.
     
    #14 Flavus Aquila, May 23, 2010
    Last edited: May 23, 2010
  15. NeverAmI

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    One guy was able to take biolumenescence from a fish and implant it into the wings of a bug using DNA switches.

    Genetic switches are the core foundation of epigenetics and offer some interesting discoveries.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=regulating-evolution

    They say there is a bunch of "Junk" in our DNA. I don't believe that for a second, I am surprised that anyone does.

    Regardless of whether the concept is scary or not, we need to fully embrace the discovery because SOMEONE is going to continue working with it. We need to understand it completely so that we can be smart enough to prevent an outbreak of something. We also need to control what specific purposes and directions they go as it advances. Self-replication is incredibly important as a delivery mechanism, but obviously poses significant threat as well.
     
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  16. enfp can be shy

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    Hm, would you say that everything exists with purpose and has a function?

    But I agree, they most likely do not have enough evidence for such claim. (eg: human appendix; turned out it is useful) So yeah, I doubt they can cut out all they claim is junk; and even then, to prove what they get is exactly the same in all other aspects.
     
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  17. NeverAmI

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    I wouldn't say there is a universal explanation. but to have a bunch of 'junk' in the core building blocks of all life seems a bit of a cop out. Seriously, why would all that 'junk' be in there every time it replicated if it wasn't needed for something?

    Given sometimes there are things left over that aren't necessarily used, but the leftovers in DNA is a TON of stuff! It's like before they knew the parts of the brain and just said that it is a bunch of grey stuff that controls us.
     
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  18. DoveAlexa

    DoveAlexa Chaz's Lovey Bunny
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    Oh yeah, epigenetics is great stuff.

    I watched a whole Nova episode of it (or a show like it, on PBS) showed how one guy cured the cancer in several people by giving them this drug that essentially wiped clean their epigenome. Also, that your environment changes your epigenome, hence why one person in a set of twins would get cancer but the other wouldn't. Its also a little more concrete/believable than just blaming cancer on free radicals directly destroying DNA.

    You can even have changes to your epigenome caused by famines experienced by your grandparents. Amazing stuff.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch. It's been forever since cloning made Dolly the Sheep, and I haven't seen any human clone armies spring up yet, so I'm no too worried about this DNA building-from-scratch science just yet. They'll likely keep making fun and cool things for many more decades before making anything dangerous. Even the scientists themselves likely don't want to make anything like that quite yet, especially if they aren't equipped to control natural super-dangerous microbes. Scientists watch movies and Tv too XD.
     
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  19. NeverAmI

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    I am mainly concerned with medicinal delivery systems built on viral structures and the possible exploitations that could happen from that.
     
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  20. DoveAlexa

    DoveAlexa Chaz's Lovey Bunny
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    Say what now?
     
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