Creator of first synthetic living cell claims he's not playing god

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London, May 21 (ANI): Dr Craig Venter, who has created the first synthetic living cell, has said that he is not playing god, but the feat could help them understand the basic nature of life.

In a recent interview Venter as said that what he has achieved is indeed the first in the world.

"This is the first time anyone has built an entire 1.08 million base pair chromosome, transplanted that chromosome into a recipient cell and for that chromosome to take over that cell, effectively converting it into a new species defined by the chromosome. So it's a whole new paradigm, the first time we have a cell that is totally controlled 100 per cent by a synthetic chromosome," the Independent quoted him as saying.

"We're defining it as synthetic life because it's totally determined by the synthetic chromosome. We do start with a living cell but the synthetic chromosome totally transforms that living cell to this new synthetic cell," he added.

When asked if the new form of life is a replicating, free-living organism, he said: "That is correct, only it is only free-living in the sense that it grows in the laboratory in a very rich culture media so it wouldn't survive in the outside environment. Given the right nutrients in the laboratory it is completely self-replicating on its own."

And he said that the discovery could help scientists in many ways.

"The purpose is to try to understand the basic nature of life, and the minimal sets of genes needed for life. We do not know all the gene functions in any single cell. We don't know what they do, we don't know how they all work so we've been trying for 15 years to come up with ways to be able to define that even for simple cells.

"So that is the key part of the next stage. But over the years the uses of this technology have become much more apparent to us and to others. It's a powerful technology for actually trying to design specific functions into organisms, for example to manufacture new fuels out of carbon dioxide or to create new vaccines very rapidly instead of the long delays we have."

Asked, if he is playing God with life, he replied: "We've covered this before because it's almost a clichi every time there's a new breakthrough in science, particularly in biology. Science is understanding life at its most basic levels and trying to use that knowledge for the betterment of humanity so I think we are part of the progression of scientific knowledge and understanding of the world around us."

On the chances of the technology being misused, he said: "We have to be concerned. It's a powerful technology and I've proposed new regulations in this field because I feel the existing ones don't go far enough. Because we're the inventors and developers of this we want to see everything that can be done to prevent misuse of this technology."

"I've proposed regulating the companies that synthesise DNA, to screen [the DNA being synthesised] against harmful agents, and we've given feedback on improving those screens and being more rigorous. I've been briefing the US Congress on this.

"We don't want people taken by surprise. We want to put this breakthrough into context in terms of what it means. We're trying to take every responsible step we can in that respect.

"I think this is the first incidence in science where the extensive bioethical review took place before the experiments were done.

"It's part of an ongoing process that we've been driving, trying to make sure that the science proceeds in an ethical fashion, that we're being thoughtful about what we do and looking forward o the implications to the future," he added. (ANI)

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