A team of geneticists made a biological breakthrough last week.
Researchers led by the renowned Craig Venter, Ph.D. created a synthetic organism named syn3.0. It is a microbe capable of surviving and replicating with only 473 genes, reported The Guardian, establishing that this genetic number is the minimum needed for life whereas humans have a rough estimate of 20,000 genes.
Qanta explained Venter and his team made this discovery after analyzing the genome of a cattle-based bacterium called Mycoplasma mycoides through a process that took years.
The scientists took an alternative approach to building this organism by sketching out the genome structure on a computer, which followed synthesizing the DNA in test tubes.
Next, the researchers were able create the first self-replicating synthetic organism in 2010 dubbed syn 1.0, but it took a long trial-and-error process to identify genes that were essential for survival before they were able to produce syn3.0.
This innovation could lay the groundwork for designing synthetic organisms that can contribute to a new class of fuels and antibiotics.
However, Venter and his team are unsure of what an estimated 149 genes do in syn3.0. Qanta adds that the geneticists were able to classify 70 genes based on their structure, but Venter and his associates don’t know what their precise role is while the other half are a total mystery.
More research needs to be done in order to determine what the purpose of these genetic components in syn3.0. One strategy could consist of engineering cell variants that can be turned off and on in genes to see what action takes place, according to Qanta.
The study was published in the journal, Science.
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