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Scientists in Maryland yesterday said they had built from scratch an entire microbial chromosome, a loop of synthetic DNA carrying all the instructions that a simple cell needs to live and reproduce.
Venter's team started by determining the precise order of all 580,076 base pairs, or "letters" of DNA code, inside one of the simplest microbes known to science: Mycoplasma genitalium, a bacterium that can infect the human genital tract. The scientists bought small pieces of DNA, then perfected painstaking methods to stitch them together inside bacteria and yeast cells in exactly the right order.
The final product -- 582,970 base pairs in all -- is a near-exact replica of M. genitalium's genome