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Infectious virus synthesized from scratch

from the total-test-tube-replication dept.
Two nanodot readers wrote to report a BBC News story: First synthetic virus created. A team of scientists at the State University of New York at Stony Brook assembled a complete synthetic DNA copy of a poliovirus genome, transcribed the DNA into RNA using a purified enzyme, and translated and replicated the RNA in a cell free extract "resulting in the de novo synthesis of infectious poliovirus." Although no fundamentally new technology was used, the milestone demonstrates the power of current biotechnology. The research paper "Chemical Synthesis of Poliovirus cDNA: Generation of Infectious Virus in the Absence of Natural Template" by Jeronimo Cello, Aniko V. Paul, and Eckard Wimmer was published by Science online (subscription required) July 11, 2002, with the print issue to appear in a few weeks.

flicker writes "This story should have a special resonance for those of us thinking about synthetic replicators that can survive in the wild. They just stepped out of the pages of fiction and into the real world. Is it just me, or does this ring of a major watershed event?"

Mr_Farlops writes "Perhaps as the final nail in the coffin of vitalism, scientists in the United States have created the living from the non-living by assembling a virus from raw gene sequences. This act has many implications for medicine, ethics, biological warfare, nanotechnology and artificial life. The researchers say that it is only a matter of time before more ambitious life creation projects are attempted."

5 Responses to “Infectious virus synthesized from scratch”

  1. Saturngraphix Says:

    Replication Step?

    Correct me if I am wrong but

    By creating this, we have basically built a replicating system…is this not the first step we have been waiting…see if indeed we can build something so small and self replicates?

    granted its a virus…no control over it…but its a step in the right direction…right?

  2. deoxyribozyme Says:

    Re:Replication Step?

    Not quite. The virus relies upon the host replication machinery to multiply. They patched together a very long strand of DNA, transcribed it, and injected mice with it. It wasn't quite as potent as wild type virus, but did cause paralysis.

    IMO, the research is both very cool and very scary.


  3. Practical Transhuman Says:

    Note to Creationists/Vitalists:

    Of course scientists can create life! What do you think life is, — some kind of miracle?

  4. Mr_Farlops Says:

    Re:Note to Creationists/Vitalists:

    Creationists should be careful. They might get what they wish for.

  5. RobertBradbury Says:

    Re:Replication Step?

    I'm going to ditto the critical comments.

    Viruses are not self-replicating. They rip-off much of the host's replication and raw material supply capability.

    However, we are developing relatively robust capabilties for adding chromosomes to bacteria, e.g. "Assembly of large genomic segments in artificial chromosomes by homologous recombination in Escherichia coli" and "A highly efficient Escherichia coli-based chromosome engineering system adapted for recombinogenic targeting and subcloning of BAC DNA". So we will soon be able to engineer bacteria in ways that are significantly beyond the current state-of-the-art.

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