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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Synthetic genomes

A nifty announcement this morning pre-empted my transcriptome post:

Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have succeeded in creating a fully synthetic bacterial genome, which they have named Mycoplasma genitalium JCVI-1.0. This DNA structure is the largest man-made molecule in existence, measuring 582,970 base pairs.

Kind of neat, really. Unfortunately, I think it's putting the cart before the horse. We don't understand 95% of what's actually going on in the genome, so making an artificial genome is more like having a Finnish person making a copy of the English dictionary by leaving out random words (just one or two), and then seeing if Englishmen can still have a decent conversation with what he's left them. When he finds that leaving out two words still results in a reasonable discussion on toothpaste, he declares he's created a new Dialect.

Still, it's an engineering feat to build a genome from scratch, much like the UBC engineers hanging VW bugs off of bridges. Pointless and incomprehensible, but neat.



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