Interesting new article in the NY Times today that touches on some of the topics explored in Joy's article. I will paste an excerpt here:
"Reporting in the journal Science, Dr. J. Craig Venter and his colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute said they had fabricated the entire DNA chain of a microbial parasite called Mycoplasma genitalium, exceeding previous records of sustained DNA synthesis by some 18-fold. Any day now, the researchers say, they will pop that manufactured mortal coil into a cellular shell, where the genomic code will “boot up,” as Dr. Venter puts it, and the entire construct will begin acting like a natural-born M. genitalium — minus the capacity, the researchers promise, to infect the delicate tissues that explain the parasite’s surname.
Yet even as researchers rhapsodize about gaining the power to custom-design organisms that will supply us with rivers of cheap gasoline, better chemotherapeutic agents or — here’s my latest fantasy — a year-round supply of fresh eggnog, the most profound insights to emerge from the pursuit of synthetic life just may be about real life.
Scientists who seek to imitate living cells say they can’t help but be perpetually dazzled by the genuine articles, their flexibility, their versatility, their childlike grandiosity. No matter what outrageous or fattening things we may ask our synthetic cells to do, scientists say, it’s nothing compared with what cells already have done of their own accord, usually in the format of bacteria. Microbes have been found to survive and even thrive in places where if they had any sense they would freeze, melt, explode, disintegrate, starve, suffocate, or at the very least file a very poor customer review. "
you can find the entire article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/science/05angi.html?8dpc
It caught my eye and I thought one or two others might be interested in this as well.