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Genomics pioneer Craig Venter and more than 20 colleagues engineered a living microbe with a genome simpler than any seen in nature. In other words, they created a life form whose relative simplicity and modular design make it a platform that one day may be as easily manipulated as, say, software. Setting aside fears of Blade Runner replicants running amok, the breakthrough revealed on Thursday in the journal Science may hold promise for a new era in medicine, industry, and energy.
“These cells would be a very, very useful chassis for many industrial applications, from medicine to biochemicals, biofuels, nutrition, and agriculture,” said Dan Gibson, a top scientist at both Venter’s research institute and his company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. Ultimately, the group wants to understand the tiny genetic framework well enough to use it as a biological foundation for more complex organisms that could address many of the world's ills. Once each essential gene's function is identified, scientists can build an effective computer model of it; from there, they can simulate how best to go about “adding pathways for the production of useful products,” they wrote.
Scientists have long theorized how many genes might be required for a simple, viable organism that could be used as a universal template. Many studies have tried to estimate the rock-bottom number by knocking out individual genes; they have settled on 250 to 300 or so. The original bacteria species that the Venter group worked on is already pretty tiny: M. mycoides is found in cow stomachs and has about 985 genes. The human genome has more than 20,000 genes. Golden Delicious apples have more than 57,000 genes. The new organism, nicknamed Syn3.0 by researchers? It has 473.
originally posted by: Discotech
a reply to: neoholographic
What if it decides humans are food and eats the scientists ?
I'm disappointed there's no pictures I wanted to see what "it" looks like
Grey goo is a hypothetical end-of-the-world scenario involving molecular nanotechnology in which out-of-control self-replicating robots consume all matter on Earth while building more of themselves, a scenario that has been called ecophagy ("eating the environment", more literally "eating the habitation"). The original idea assumed machines were designed to have this capability, while popularizations have assumed that machines might somehow gain this capability by accident.
The term was first used by molecular nanotechnology pioneer Eric Drexler in his book Engines of Creation (1986). In Chapter 4, Engines Of Abundance, Drexler illustrates both exponential growth and inherent limits (not gray goo) by describing nanomachines that can function only if given special raw materials:
Imagine such a replicator floating in a bottle of chemicals, making copies of itself…the first replicator assembles a copy in one thousand seconds, the two replicators then build two more in the next thousand seconds, the four build another four, and the eight build another eight. At the end of ten hours, there are not thirty-six new replicators, but over 68 billion. In less than a day, they would weigh a ton; in less than two days, they would outweigh the Earth; in another four hours, they would exceed the mass of the Sun and all the planets combined — if the bottle of chemicals hadn't run dry long before.
In a History Channel broadcast, a contrasting idea (a kind of gray goo) is referred to in a futuristic doomsday scenario: "In a common practice, billions of nanobots are released to clean up an oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. However, due to a programming error, the nanobots devour all carbon based objects, instead of just the hydrocarbons of the oil. The nanobots destroy everything, all the while, replicating themselves. Within days, the planet is turned to dust."