Exploring the Science and Ethics Behind the First Man-Made Cell

Friday, May 21, 2010

A team of scientists have successfully developed new living bacteria from non-living parts, which they’re calling the first “synthetic cell.”

The team, led by Dr. Craig Venter at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, is presenting the research as a landmark achievement that could lead the way to creating products like vaccines and biofuels. At a press conference, Dr. Venter called the converted cell “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”

So have we crossed into the brave new world and created artificial life?

Victoria Gill, a science reporter for the BBC, helps us better understand this breakthrough. Also with us to talk about the ethical implications is Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.


Dr. Arthur Caplan and Victoria Gill

Produced by:

Karin Kamp

Comments [4]

Richard from St Louis

Every time I read one of these, the scientist claims to have "made" life. Well the truth is they take "parts" from "other" cells and re-assemble them to recreate what was already possible. The fact of the matter is the building of the cell itself and the installation of a DNA sequence is all built on the original frame of what was created before. If the cell is so hard to create from scratch that is without a host or source vessel. How could it spring from nothing? I want them to make something of their own design... not copy something that has been done before!! It seems being the creator for them is a bit like being the Savant Idiot, able to copy with great accuracy and only able to change the color paint.... I just don't think they give credit of the peerless enormity of what was already there! smile

Mar. 04 2012 07:57 AM
Ed H. from Larchmont

They still don't know why the cell follows the instructions in the DNA code when the nucleus is replaced. But they had created smaller pieces of DNA before. This is indeed a feat of technology.

May. 21 2010 09:47 AM
Cesare from Manhattan

Best film that depicts the morality of genetic manipulation: The Island of Dr. Moreau

May. 21 2010 08:55 AM
Becky from Detroit

The movie, Gattaca, is not too far off from future reality in my opinion. The society screens all pregnancies and picks only the most perfect DNA/ genetics. Those parents that choose to have a "natural" selection process, have kids that are discriminated against. I believe there are many sci-fi movies out there that may seem far out, but are actually getting closer to being possible.

May. 21 2010 08:44 AM

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