21 May 2010

Creation of synthetic cell hailed as breakthrough

3:17 pm on 21 May 2010

Scientists in the United States have developed the world's first synthetic organism.

Experts say it is a major step towards the creation of artificial life but critics say the development may pose philosophical and scientific questions about the bid to recreate life, suggesting the scientists are playing God.

Writing in the journal Science, a team in Maryland led by Dr Craig Venter says the cell's DNA was built block by block from chemicals.

After growing the DNA in yeast, it was transferred to a bacterium cell that had been emptied of its own DNA, the BBC reports.

The new DNA soon took over the cell's functions and has now replicated itself billions of times.

Dr Venter says he wants to use the new technique to engineer organisms that could produce oil, food and medicines or clean up pollution, by absorbing greenhouse gases.