At last, a gang of gene nerds have engineered a genome from scratch. The group, who work at Craig Venter's institute, call the bacterium they built "synthetic life," because they modded (rather than duplicating) the materials that grew into strands of DNA. Once they had enough strands, researchers linked them together and got a fully-fledged bacterial genome. The next step? Getting the synthetic bacteria to "boot up" and reproduce.
According to BBC News:
They must transplant the synthetic genome into another cell so that it can use the existing machinery to "boot up" and start growing and reproducing. "It's installing the software - basically we have to boot up the genome, get it operating," said Dr [Hamilton] Smith, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1978. "We're simply re-writing the operating software for cells - we're not designing a genome from the bottom up - you can't drop a genome into a test tube and expect it to come to life," he added.
And leave it to MIT's awesome Drew Endy to give us the big picture:
Given the work already done in Japan, building genomes almost 10 million base-pairs long - I would be surprised if by 2012 it were not technically possible to routinely design and construct the genomes of any bacteria or single celled eukaryote, which also means that it will be possible to construct some mammalian chromosomes.
The synthetic genome is based on the bacteria Mycoplasma genitalium, which sounds sort of dirty, so researchers named its synthetic counterpart Mycoplasma JCVI-1.0.
Synthetic Life Advance Reported [BBC News]