clipped from www.theglobeandmail.com
Lab-made genome gives new life to ethics debate
If you thought that designing life was the sole domain of nature or a divine power – think again.
A team of U.S. scientists is reporting that it has constructed the genome of a living organism for the first time. Assembling bits of lab-made DNA, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Maryland say they have built the genetic structure of a bacterium from scratch in the lab.
The feat marks an historic, and controversial, milestone in the fledgling field known as synthetic biology. It uses chunks of synthetic DNA like Lego blocks, with an aim to creating life forms that can be genetically programmed to perform useful tasks.
Its proponents envision making micro-organisms that gobble up pollution, produce hard-to-make drugs, pump out clean energy, or, at the whimsical end, flowers designed to bloom on your birthday.