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Posted on Friday, November 14, 2003 @ 22:29:49 GMT by vlad

Science Page: A1 / Front Section: News Byline: Josef Hebert Source: Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Scientists announced significant progress Thursday toward creating an artificial organism that one day may have uses ranging from pollution control to clean energy production.

Scientists using commercially available DNA took only two weeks to build from scratch an artificial virus with the identical genetic code of a simple virus already known to infect and kill bacterial cells.

The research at the Institute of Biological Energy Alternatives in Rockville, Md., was detailed in a paper to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and at a news conference by the U.S. energy department, which funded the three-year research effort.

While the project was based on widely known molecular biology principles, the breakthrough was in the short time -- days instead of months or years -- it took to construct the virus, said institute founder Craig Venter, one of the researchers.

Researchers previously synthesized the polio virus from enzymes that naturally occurred in cells, but that process took three years and produced viruses with defects.

The effort last summer by Venter and his colleagues took only two weeks from start to finish and created a viral DNA identical to the known genetic code, the researchers said.

The synthetic virus ``had the ability to infect and kill bacterial cells,`` the authors wrote in the paper. Even though the experiment involved a simple organism, the researchers suggested their work demonstrated the ability to quickly and accurately synthesize long segments of DNA that can serve as ``a stepping stone to manipulating more complex organisms.``

At a news conference, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called the accomplishment ``an extraordinary and exciting development`` that will speed up ``our ability to develop biology-based solutions for some of our most pressing energy and environmental challenges.``

As a result of the scientists` progress, Abraham said it is now ``easier to imagine in the not-too-distance future a colony of specially designed microbes living within the emission-control system of a coal-fired plant, consuming its pollution and its carbon dioxide, or employing microbes to radically reduce water pollution or to reduce the toxic effects of radioactive water.``

But Venter, among the scientists who first produced a map of the complete human genetic code, said much research is needed to produce such a significantly larger artificial organism.

``It`s an interim step. Now we have the enabling technology to take us to these next exciting frontiers,`` Venter said. For now, ``This is basic science at the most basic level with lots of unknowns.``
Edition: Final
Source: The Vancouver Sun , 14 November 2003

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"VIRUS MAY EAT POLLUTION, CREATE CLEAN ENERGY" | Login/Create an Account | 1 comment | Search Discussion
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by Anonymous on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 @ 03:07:54 GMT
This stuff is scary. Have you noticed how they always justify their work with this wonderful cure/fix for xy,z (unproved of course). The new virus may well indeed behave exactly as designed if they are 100% correct in the function of all the blocks of DNA as well as all the interactions.

However, one mistake and they could end up making an airbourne ebola or hiv with a 2 week hibernation period. Bye bye humans......

Of course none of this research would ever be used to create a biological weapon would it. Oh hang on a minute which country has the largest stockpile of biological and chemical weapons which for some reason it hasn't got round to destroying yet (clue: its not Iraq!).




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