Soon it will be possible to design cells or entire organisms using computer software and 3D printers, a scientist has claimed.
The cells could be used to create biofuels, combat global warming, develop new healthcare and medicines and even recreate alien lifeforms on earth, if alien DNA is ever found.
Using chemicals and inserting DNA into the cell of bacteria, Dr. J.Craig Venter, who helped map the human genome, managed to created the world’s first synthetic life form.
Dr. Venter detailed the theory in his new book “Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life”, where he said: “In years to come it will be increasingly possible to create a wide variety of [synthetic] cells from computer-designed software. The creation of cells from scratch will open up extraordinary possibilities.”
The scientist also predicts in the future machines will be able to analyze the make up of genomes and transmit this through the internet or even space, creating more possibilities in the search for alien life, the Sunday Times reported.
The scientist says: “The day is not far off when we will be able to send a robotically controlled genome sequencing unit to other planets to read the DNA sequence of any alien microbe life that may be there,’ claimed Venter.
“If we can beam them back to Earth we should be able to reconstruct their genomes. The synthetic version of a Martian genome could then be used to recreate Martian life on Earth.”
This could even be reversed, and if aliens pick up digital transmissions of human DNA they could recreate humans on their planet.
Scientists would then be able to manipulate and modify the DNA by adding certain features to create tailor-made microbes.
These advances in genome technology will form part of a “genetic revolution”, according to Venter, and “could give humanity crops resistant to drought and disease and artificial animals that could yield both food and drugs.” The cells could also be used to increase intelligence, or even extend human life.
Venter is the president of the J. Craig Venter Institute, which conducts research into synthetic biology. He is seeking to patent the first lifeform created by humans, dubbed Mycoplasma laboratorium.
In 2000, Venter and Francis Collins from the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Public Genome Project claimed they had mapped the entire human genome.
Human bodies have around 3 billion base pairs, but only 4 per cent of those pairs are said to influence how genes react and behave. The finished sequence was completed, with 99.99 per cent accuracy in 2003, writes the Daily Mail.
In 2010 Dr. Venter and his team made a new chromosome from artificial DNA in a test tube. They first analyzed the genome of a microbe, and then reconstructed it from laboratory chemicals before inserting the finished DNA into a bacterial cell, which began to grow and reproduce.
As the Telegraph reports, the multi-millionaire pioneer in genetics compared his work with making a computer at the time, referring to the artificial DNA as the software.