Recent neuroscience advances of interest to neurosurgeons, neurologists and neuroscientists


James I Ausman


In a landmark study reported in Science Express ( May 2010/Page 1/10.1126/science.1190719; Science News: Science; 328, P958, 2010), J. Craig Venter and colleagues reported the building of a genome (whole DNA sequence) from the start to make a DNA that produces synthetic life in a bacterium. It took 10 years of accumulated work to reach this stage. The scientific team built a synthetic copy of the DNA genome of a bacterium, M. mycoides. They assembled the sequences of the bases necessary to construct the synthetic DNA and then used a yeast cell to assemble sequences of 10,000 DNA bases and then the 100,000 sequences of bases into the complete genome. They then transferred the synthetic genome they made into another bacterium, M. capricolum. Initially, the cell did not divide because of a mistake in one of the DNA bases in the whole chain. When this base was corrected, the bacterium finally grew into a colony of bacteria. The colony grew like the M. mycoides from which the synthetic DNA was built. So, a different bacterial colony emerged being guided by the DNA from the original species. The work has been described as “a defining moment in the history of biology and biotechnology,” “a technological milestone,” “amazing accomplishment.” This has been called the artificial creation of life. At a minimum, it will lead to the production of many proteins on a large scale. Will it lead to the artificial production of life? The discovery will alter the course of medicine in the 21st century.

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