Artificial Life has arrived

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by baftan, May 20, 2010.

  1. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    After actually reading the paper, I see that you are correct, and they did indeed do a lot of work to paste all the 1000 bp fragments into a 1M bp sequence. It is certainly very cool.

    But like I said, they didn't "create new life from nothing," or even design a new genome from scratch. They just made a synthetic copy of an already-sequenced genome (with a few watermarks etc) and stuck it in a cell, and then showed that the cell worked with the new DNA. Cool stuff, but not exactly what some of the posters here seem to be imagining.
     
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  3. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    True this was a proof of concept experiment, next they will try to get a synthetic designed genome working, I believe it will take many tries to work but from that knowledge a working understand of all the requirement for a cell genetically to function will the teased out. We have had this kind of knowledge with virus for some time but mainly because viruses have between 3-60 genes and don't have active metabolism, there is still a lot not understood about what genes and what operons exist to make a cell fully viable reproductively (although our metabolic understanding is certainly up to the task).

    Bioroid bacteria will not likely be a threat to nature, as they will be much simpler and fragiler then natural bacteria and won't be able to compete against natural organism, lacking genetic exchange mechanism, virus protection, essential nutrients and even resistance to oxygen they can be designed to live in a growth reactor under constant supervision and no place else.

    then again as a weapon we have for several years now had the ability to synthesis viruses and I'm sure places like North Korea have already printed out small pox from the known sequence. Bioroid bacteria won't be viable for that task for some time (decades) as its easy to make them limited to growing in a fermentation reactor it will be hard to make them able to live in a human body.

    then again, as biotechnology and nanotechnology merge a bioroid that can live in the body could cure disease and repair tissues.

    Technology is a double edge sword, what can do great good with it or kill are selves with it, the choose is ours.
     
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  5. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    I agree that this will probably happen eventually, but designing a synthetic genome (as opposed to just making modifications to an existing genome) is a much, much more ambitious project. It's also somewhat unclear where you draw the line between designing s genome from scratch vs. modifying an existing one. I'm sure there are many important genes that simply MUST be there for the cell to function and reproduce, so any successful "designed" genome would probably be substantially similar to the original anyway. Even if someone successfully figures out all the vital parts of the bacteria genome and is thus able to stick new stuff in at will, in my opinion that wouldn't really count as creating new life - you're just tweaking the DNA of existing life to make it do useful things for you.
     
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  7. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    If that what your arguing then we will have to wait for the day and age we can create complete synthetic genes, and protein/enzyme design of that scale won't be possible until quantum computer come of age! Now are you saying we can't used natural genes even if they were digitized?
     
  8. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    Of course people can use them. I just don't think it would could as designing a new genome from scratch.
     
  9. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    I think they can, it won't be hard to try now based off the previous work.
     
  10. Grim_Reaper I Am Death Destroyer of Worlds Registered Senior Member

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    I am not sure but I think Nasor has a bee in his/her bonnet because of the Creation of life. This has been until now the realm of the mythical God creature. Now man can create life is man not now on the same level as the God creature I would have to say yes he are on the threshold of Creation of new life and yes I realized that they used a preexisting cell or rather the husk of that cell. the creation part come from when that Ceil divides that is the creation part and the new life. And the nothing part comes from the previous cell was essentially dead after it was striped of its DNA. And once the new DNA was inserted the Ceil came to life. This is why I said they created new life from nothing which is what they essentially did.
     
  11. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    Meh. I'm not particularly interested in a semantic argument, and I don't believe in god. I just think that calling this the creation of life is blowing it way out of proportion. But if you want to call synthesizing a long DNA chain and sticking it into a cell "creating life," then go for it I suppose.

    But following that sort of logic, printing out the source code for an opperating system and then retyping it by hand and installing it on a computer whose hard drive has been reformatted would probably count as "making a computer from nothing."
     
  12. Grim_Reaper I Am Death Destroyer of Worlds Registered Senior Member

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    Yeah it could be concidered the same yes all though using the install disk if far faster.
     
  13. baftan ******* Valued Senior Member

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    May I ask what is your criteria for "artificial life"? In other way of saying, what would qualify as "un-natural life" for you? Before you produce an answer, let me summarize a couple of situations:

    1- Although you have declared that you don't believe in god and not interested in a semantic argument, your argument -depending on your previous posts to this thread- sounds similar to ones that are produced by Islamic discourse I come across on other sites. Their main argument claims what is done is nothing but a copying, and/or similar to your claim, using the existing DNA knowledge.

    2- Life itself did not appear suddenly. It took nearly a billion year for nature to come up with functional primitive DNA structure for a multicellular organism. Yet each and every stage (RNA, viruses, single celled organism, etc.) became an important development and if you ignore the extinct species, most of these forms are still protected by nature today. So, the existence of artificial life form will necessarily depend on previous technologies as well as cooperation with other technological areas (such as computers).

    Taking these two situations, we can also add some realities: If artificial life uses atoms as their materials, consumes the strategies of self-replication, mutation -and necessarily "evolutionary existence" just like everything else in this universe-, one can always question its original position. If artificial life is designed through computers, one can always say that it is not actually "self-existing" but depending upon some auxiliary support, so it's not original. What is your criteria? Where will you be convinced about artificial element? For instance, if that subject "artificial life" uses some code other than DNA, would it qualify?
     
  14. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    If someone can synthesize something that is alive from stock chemicals (which I suppose I would even take so far as to include pre-made proteins and other biomolecules), I would consider that artifical life. I would be doubly-impressed if the lifeform was actually designed from the ground up, rather than just a copy of a pre-existing lifeform that had been studied extensively.
    Then in this case I suppose I agree with them, although I would probably disagree with them on many other things...
    Obviously there is a spectrum of more or less "artificial." But in my opinion this research, while interesting and impressive, doesn't (to me) count as "creating life," any more than installing an OS on a computer counts as "creating a computer." If you assemble pre-made hardware (RAM, CPU, etc) into a working computer, then in my opinion it's fair to say you have created a computer. If you have a micochip fab and actually make all the chips etc. yourself from raw silicon, then you have most definitely created a computer. This, in my opinion, is a lot closer to simply installing an OS.
     
  15. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    But what if you programed a computer to make another computer? That would be a better analogy for this case.
     
  16. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    If you have a computer that is already able to make other computers, and you print out the computer's software source code and then manually retype it back into the computer-creating-computer after reformatting it, I don't consider that to be "creating a computer." Of course, perhaps you do.
     
  17. baftan ******* Valued Senior Member

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    Would you include basic DNA structure (A-T and C-G coupling over a helix) as one of your stock chemicals?

    -quoted from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/may/20/craig-venter-synthetic-life-form

    Mind you, this is replicating.

    So in a sense, this is designed from ground up; but if you accept "ground-up" design as something totally original (apart from some base chemicals as you said); I must tell you that there is no such a thing: Neither in natural existence, nor in human technological/cultural products. All structures must necessarily use previous materials/codes/technology in order to come up with something new. In other way of saying, anything "new" actually consist of at least 99% old things.

    Maybe now. But don't worry, at one point you would accept something as artificial (you gave your criteria); but they will never accept at any stage.

    So your opinion is a wrong one. Because we must accept DNA as an hardware for simple reason: We can not install a human software (theory of mind; jokes, etc.) on a non-human creature as their hardware (DNA) would not allow this OS. And if these guys are able to code their names and e-mail addresses, they are clearly playing with the hardware.
     
  18. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    Sure. But I would not consider a complete cell that has had its DNA sucked out to be a stock chemical. If they had synthesized the cell that they stuck the DNA into in the same way that they synthesized the DNA, I would agree with the label of synthetic/artificial/whatever life. But they didn't.
    Where you draw the line is obviously somewhat arbitrary, but in my opinion the line should be drawn at assembling (or causing to self-assemble) a completed cell or cell-like object. Starting with a complete cell and simply swapping out the DNA does not seem like creating life from scratch to me.
     
  19. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

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    ^ I'd agree with you in that "all" we've done is replace the natural instruction-set of a living cell with a synthetic instruction-set.
    It just so happens that the synthetic one is otherwise identical to the natural, but it shows that it is possible to create a fairly complex strand and to swap out a natural one in its entirety.

    But the massive step toward what I would call true synthetic life would be to create a synthetic cell in which to house the synthetic DNA.
     
  20. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    No need, we can use a natural cell and destroy/remove the natural genome, insert an completely synthetic genome and that cell will convert and replicate into the new desired cell type eventually replacing all the natural components with the synthetic ones: why waste the type creating a cell from scratch?

    Its not like swaping the engine of a car and calling it a new car, it would be more like swaping the engine and then all the other parts of the car automatically get replaced with new parts until there is nothing left of the original. How then are you to tell your synthetic organism was created using a natural host from that of somehow assembling all the proteins beforehand make artificial cell membranes and putting it all together?
     
  21. baftan ******* Valued Senior Member

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    You may -or may not- find it amazing but "gene synthesis" have been around since 1970s:

    -from Wikipedia (unless indicated otherwise, all below quotes will be from the same source-

    Since then, many companies and techniques have been developed and today it's a big industry, and Craig Venter is not an exception to get the material for his product from one of these companies:

    -extract from the news article "Synthetic Genome Brings New Life to Bacterium" in Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/328/5981/958).

    I would like to emphasize this "biochemistry" (study of the chemical processes in living organisms- Wikipedia) above description. Here is the definition of Synthetic life:

    -parenthesis is mine-

    In here, "in vitro" means:

    Now let's pause for a moment and read the introduction part of the article "Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome" published in Science:

    (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/rapidpdf/science.1190719v1.pdf)

    If we sorted out the artificial or synthetic side of this achievement, let's focus on the importance of it, in other way of saying "originality":

    (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/328/5981/958)

    I apologize for the size of the last extraction, but I think it gives some idea about the picture. Up until now, for the replication of synthetic DNA strands, one needed to transplant a piece of synthetic DNA into a natural genome, grow it (or leave it for replication) then harvest the copies of synthetic bits. Now it is possible to design entire genome as synthetic. Genome is the instruction part of life; it's not the entire system that's for sure:

    -from "Synthetic Genome Brings New Life to Bacterium" in Science-

    As far as I understood, you are happened to be one of the "others". That's OK; yet, I would suggest you to reconsider the steps of your assumption on "what is artificial". Because it must include more than stock chemicals as you admitted as "causing to self-assemble" which is achieved here in a great degree if not entirely. I find it exciting enough at this stage...
     
  22. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

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    Irrelevent... the issue is "true synthetic life" which also includes creatin the "cell".!!!
     
  23. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    But the "cell" is created, just not at once.
     

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