Synthetic bug given ‘fewest genes’

Scientists have taken another step in their quest to understand the bare genetic essentials of life.

A team led by US research entrepreneur Craig Venter has created a semi-synthetic, functioning bacterium in the lab that has fewer than 500 genes. This minimal number is lower than in any known free-living bug in nature. The group says its investigations aim to push the boundaries of fundamental knowledge and could lead to novel means to make new drugs and other chemicals.

“Our long-term vision has been to design and build synthetic organisms on demand where you can add in specific functions and predict what the outcome is going to be,” said Daniel Gibson, who is a co-author on a paper describing the latest work in Science Magazine. “We think these cells would be a very useful chassis for many industrial applications, from medicine to biochemicals, biofuels, nutrition and agriculture,” he told reporters. Source: Synthetic bug given ‘fewest genes’

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