Craig Venter unveils ‘Synthetic Life’

Luuk Schipperheyn
May 21st 2010

Craig Venter announces what might be a historic milestone in the nature caused by people. For 15 years, Craig Venter and his team of scientists have tried to synthesize life from scratch. This week, he publicized their success.

A chromosome was designed in digital code on the computer and then transplanted into a bacterial cell, transforming that cell into a new bacterial species. Apart from the usual blueprint for proteins, the DNA also carried the names of the key contributors and even its own email address.

"This is the first self-replicating species on the planet, whose parent is a computer"

Venter already mentions some potential practical applications for his discovery: a vaccine for HIV and a new strain of algae that can significantly decrease CO2-levels and provide a source for gasoline.

Though great things can be done with this new technique, it also raises a lot of questions. Is man now some kind of god? Will we be able to design our own pets? Will we save our mp3-files on a flower instead of a USB-stick?

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Should men be able to give birth to children?


Koert van Mensvoort: Is the artificial womb frankenstein-like symbol of (male) engineers trying to steal the magical womb from women? Or… is it a feminist project and needed to reach through equality between the sexes? I personally lean towards the latter. To me it feels like progress if a girl can tell a guy to carry the womb for a change.

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