Cloning a genetic program: Not creating life

J. Craig Venter Institute, after spending millions of Big Pharma and Big Oil money, said he created a completely synthetic cell.

Very funny. And very bombastic.

He didn’t “design” anything, except maybe a few lab technique improvements.

The “new” DNA is an exact, base pair by base pair copy, of the DNA of one of the simplest bacteria they could find. That was bacteria that had been bred precisely for its adaptability for removal and cloning and reinsertion into other bacteria.

It took years because just copying even one gene is a monumental undertaking, and all the AGTC base pairs had to be connected up in exact sequence. All 582,970 base pairs. Each one.

Just one defective base pair held them for weeks.

Then they inserted it into yeast, the best medium for copying DNA, with ambient enzymes that particularly help keep the DNA from disintegrating again.

Then the took the DNA from there and inserted it into a living cell, replacing only the nuclear material.

The entire cell was already in place, with all the biochemical machinery that a cell already has to have in place for any DNA to do anything, to mean anything. That means, sugars, metabolism, waste removal, nutrient absorption, courier machinery, reactive and proactive enzymes, chemical sensing engineering.

The guy bragged about making this a “philosophical breakthrough”. We all know what he really meant, except he didn’t want to have to defend what he really meant. Because he knew that he did not create any life at all.

All he did was plagiarize a genetic program that he knew already worked, make an exact replica, and put it together in a protected hyper-engineered laboratory environment, and inserted it into a living cell. Having life already in place, already prepared by the combination of its previous active genome with the cytoplasm.

Having life in place was a pre-requisite, in other words, for life, because “life” is not only the genome, it is the genome in the cell.



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