Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have created a synthetic bacterial cell using manufactured DNA. The research has been completed after 15 years of hard work and around $40 million was spend on it. The technology could be used in biofuels, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, clean water projects and food products.
However, some experts have urged the global community to move cautiously before taking steps to create human-made organisms. The researchers synthesized the 1.08 million base pair chromosome of a modified Mycoplasma mycoides genome. The institute stressed that the knowledge gained from the project will be used for beneficial purposes.
The technology could be used in biofuels, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, clean water projects and food products. Meanwhile, The National Farmers Union(NFU) has expressed concerns that the development of a synthetic cell could lead to worrisome, long-term consequences. The NFU president Terry Boehm called the world’s first “100 per cent synthetic life form” a risk “for humankind and the environment.” “This new technology raises serious concerns about who controls it, what it will be used for, and its potential impact,” Boehm said.
President Obama has directed the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to conduct a detailed study about the implications of the development. John L. Wyatt, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, told TechNewsWorld that some people are apprehensive that synthetic cells may be used in repairing damage to the human body, but the technology is not fit for that.
The executive director and ethicist at the Catholic Medical Association, John Brehany has alos urged people to maintain caution before using the new technology. “We must be very prudent in how quickly and extensively we try to apply this technology. I expect that the first applications will be in the area of industry and agriculture, not medicine,” he told TechNewsWorld. “