Tenali : Gopal, did you know that scientists are claiming that they have made the first artificial living cell?
Gopal : What ? Is it really possible?
Tenali : Craig Venter, the scientist who leads ateam for developing synthetic life forms, admitted, “We have not created life. We’ve created the first synthetic cell. We definitely have not created life from scratch because we used a recipient cell to boot up the synthetic chromosome.”
Gopal : Explain this to me.
Tenali : Well, see if you get this. They synthesized a copy of an extant bacterial genome through known mole cular biology techniques, made some changes so that they could identify the synthetic version, and put it inside a bacterium, and were able to show after a few generations that the cells were alive and replicating using solely their synthetic copy as its genome. So basically, they built something that already exists, but from scratch, chemically. In other words they copied an existing bacterial genome. They sequenced its genetic code and then used synthesis machines to chemically construct a copy. The synthetic DNA was transferred to a host cell. The resulting microbe then looked and behaved like the species “dictated” by the synthetic DNA.
Gopal : I think this language is useful only for getting research grants or to confuse simple folks like me.
Tenali : Simply put, he took one existing , biologically evolved genome and put it in an empty cell. The achievement is that the cell didn’t die outright.
Gopal : This reminds me of a contest between a scientist and God. The scientist was angry that people were giving credit to God for creating life from earth. So he challenged God saying that due to tremendous advancement in science and technology he too can do the same thing. God accepted the challenge . As he pi cked a handful of mud , however, Go d stopped him and said, “No, not like that. Make your own mud.” , please educate me. All my life I have seen that no one can create life with only matter, and matter cannot create itself. You, Tenali, a living person, can mix hydrogen and oxygen to create water. But matter itself has no creative energy. If you place a bottle of hydrogen near a bottle of oxygen, will they automatically combine without your help?
Tenali : Of course not!
Gopal : This seems more to me like a man has practiced for ten years to perfectly bark like a dog. And after this arduous struggle people flock to see him at a circus tent and marvel at his talent. All the while millions of dogs are perfectly barking with their God given talents.
Tenali : By the way, to produce this first synthetic cell it took 15 years and cost 40 million dollars. When Craig Venter was asked whether he was playing God, he said, “Someone has to do it.”
Gopal : Tenali, why does man have to compete with God instead of co-operating with Him?
Tenali : That, Gopal, I really don't know!