Researchers Create Artificial Yeast That May Pave Way to 'Designer' Organisms
Science is inching closer to tinkering with life itself. Recently, a team of scientists have created a new synthetic yeast that brings humanity a leap closer to artificial life, including "designer" organisms.
The study, published in the journal Science, involves synthesizing six of 16 yeast chromosomes, the very same chromosomes that carry genes. The team is from the Synthetic Yeast Genome Project, a group of scientists that plan on researching the limits of yeast. They claim that the artificial yeast genome may be completed next year.
The research involves building yeast chromosomes from the four blocks of DNA: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. Each natural chromosome is carefully replaced with artificial ones created from the lab.
The new creation was also made possible through BioStudio, a program that "created" these materials out of countless of tests. Jef Boeke, project leader from New York University School of Medicine, said that if successful, the technology will allow scientists to access yeast that's "made to order."
George Church from Harvard University, who was not part of the research, told Gizmodo that the find is very "exciting" as one-third of the team's discovery has already tackled some of the hardest parts of the research.
According to Science Alert, scientists have already made a lot of improvements in the study's genetic editing part, all thanks to CRISPR editing. But beyond the goal of "editing" genes, the study's aim now is to "produce" genes.
The discovery means humanity is close to creating custom genomes from yeast and is just a few years away from making the first artificial organisms. In fact, something similar to "artificial organisms" have been done before with the Mycoplasma genitalium bacterium, but yeast is much more complex given its potential to produce more complicated sets of organisms.
Results may range from the creation of the first eukaryotic organism in the laboratory, to even higher orders of species such as plants and animals. Of course, the team admitted that they are still very far away from the results they are aiming for.
However, the mere fact that they are now able to write the "code" that can make a fully functional artificial organism has unprecedented impact to the field, considering what it can do when combined with developing artificial intelligence, but this is another story for another time.