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Scientists working on the Sc2.0 project have announced that in the space of a couple of years they will have successfully created the first entirely synthetic organisms whose DNA was completely programmed by human beings. The first completely synthetic organism will be a yeast cell with biological capabilities that do not exist in nature.
There have been researching projects which have developed very small scale synthetic organisms in the past, but these projects have focussed on simple bacteria genomes. Sarah Richardson, a synthetic biologist who has been working on the Sc2.0 project, explains that these synthetic bacteria tend to have around 4 million base pairs of DNA. Yeast is a far more complicated organism which has around 12 million base pairs of DNA.
Throughout the ambitious, the hundreds of scientists who have lent their skills to the endeavor have learned a huge amount about the very building blocks of life. Through a laborious and often frustration process of trial and error, the scientists have been able to determine which of the yeast genes are essential for the sustainment of life and which are unnecessary. They have also determined that supposedly trivial changes to the genetic code of the synthetic yeast organisms can make the difference between a cell that thrives for a considerable period of time and one which is completely deficient. It is hoped that these intricate observations on the genetic code of yeast organisms could have wide-ranging implications for human beings hoping to understand the very foundation blocks of life in other organisms.
When the project is concluded in the next couple of years, it will certainly be a huge step forward for bioengineering and may spark a revolution in a variety of different industries. Once it is definitively proven that scientists can engineer specifically designed organisms, then other teams could follow suit and design new organisms for various reasons. It is believed that genetically designed organisms could be useful in the fields of scientific research, industry and even human medicine.