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Harvard Team Creates the World's 1st Synthesized Cells

Humancellstained_2 A single cell is the most awesomely sophisticated molecular machine yet produced.  A self-directing, self-replicating micro-factory capable of complex constructions, automated repair and even (like all good sci-fi-sounding devices) self-destruct.  The first cells, however, were much less "complex mechanisms" and significantly more "Shake and Bake" - a model that we're now ready to build ourselves.

These proto-cells didn't have any sophisticated cellular functions, consisting of nothing more than a fatty cell wall just dense enough to have an inside and an outside, with a speck of DNA on the "not-outside" side.  This child's model of a cell drifted in the chemical soup that created it until the correct nucleotides were absorbed and allowed it to replicated the DNA.

If it sounds hideously unlikely, be aware that some Harvard researchers, including Harvard Medical School's Jack Szostak, have managed exactly that.  Mixing some fatty acids and DNA in a test tube of water, they found that the lipid molecules formed a crude ring around the information-rich core.  Even more strikingly, nucleotides added to the solution successfully entered the cell and replicated the DNA within a day.  We can only hope the scientist took this chance to raise the test tube and cry "In my hand I hold the secret to LIFE ITSELF!", triggering dramatic lightning strikes and thunder in the background.

There are still a few tricks to work out, such as how the original ancestor cells successfully split in two without spilling their precious genetic cargo - but come on.  These guys just replicated what took a planet and millions of years in a couple of terms with less than ten dollars of glassware.  Awe and wonder are deeply subjective quantities, but I can say for a fact: if you are not impressed by this work, you are wrong.

Posted by Luke McKinney.

Related Galaxy posts:

Darwin's Lab: Scientists on Brink of Creating Life
Scientists Attempt to Build the 1st Single Cell from Scratch -Will They Succeed?
Was First Life on Earth Triggered by Clay?

New Artificial Organism with Advanced Group Intelligence: A Swarm of 10,000 Miniature Robots
Dr Strangelove Two? -Cambridge Astrophysicist Gives Earthlings a 50/50 Chance of Making it Through the Century
Robot Evolution: A Parallel to the Origins of Life
Virtual Immortality -How To Live Forever
Scientists Create Artificial Brain

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Synthetic Cell


Hey, here's a radical idea! Why not take those bits of genetic material from that meteorite found in Australia, then try this experiment again?? I wonder what would happen?!

Genetic material? From a meteorite? What?

you are a shit i am more intelligent than you because iam albert einstein desendant jajajja you bastards i clone myself and you dont iam a a GENIOUS!!!

HAHAHA! You can't even spell the word "GENIUS" correctly HAHAHAH!!!

I'd say this team deserves an A+ for effort, for thinking outside the box and even trying this experiment. Bravo.

However, the team deserves an INCOMPLETE until the "new cell" actually does what living things do -- divide (without spilling out the "good contents") and generate offspring.

Until then, it's a bunch of chemicals bubbling around.

If my grandson takes an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper and makes a paper glider out of it, same A+. However, he hasn't built a space shuttle or a Boeing 747.

Lots of "heavy lifting" ahead, before he can claim that his paper airplane is the "first aircraft synthesized by a 9 year old."

So let me get this straight. I am supposed to believe that life could have spontaneously occurred because a couple of Harvard scientists created a facsimile of life under the carefully controlled environment of a laboratory? Sounds to me that all they have proven are that the most sophisticated life forms on the planet managed to create a minimal version of life. You cannot prove the genesis of life this way. All you can do is find it somewhere else other than earth. But even then you find yourself in the same situation we are in here. How did life get there? It really is an answerable problem. These scientists did nothing to change that.

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