July 22, 2012 9:01
Biologists at Harvard University one step closer to creating synthetic life forms, by which it will be possible to create artificial drugs with certain characteristics, new fuels and completely new materials for industry.
The head of this trend at Harvard John Church, says his group managed to completely copy the part of the living cell, which is responsible for creating proteins that are necessary for life. The next step would be the continuation of the construction of artificial cells, especially as part of the researchers already have — the mechanism of artificial reproduction of natural protein works, he says, writes sunhome.ru
John Church is engaged in gene research for more than 30 years, in 80 years he was one of the first people in the United States addressed the problem of decoding the human genome.
Established in Harvard technology can be used to program the cells to create any protein, even those that do not exist in nature, but can be chemically synthesized. "This approach enabled the development of new drugs, chemicals and organisms, including live bacteria. Today's discovery — a key component in the creation of synthetic life. Until we create a synthetic organism and it is not our goal, but it is tremendous progress in this direction, "- he said.
These achievements called controversial in a society where there is growing concern in uncontrolled creation of artificial life.
Recall that their work on the creation of artificial life and is known biologist, founder of Synthetic Genomics Craig Venter. He is trying to create artificial organisms that are suitable for certain tasks, such as converting coal into methane. Venter's plans also include the creation of micro-organisms that can break down carbon or safely disposed of composite materials such as plastic.
John Church, says that his team artificially reconstructed the ribosome, the first version of which is able to reproduce itself. The natural version of the ribosome is used to create a variety of proteins for drugs and vaccines. However, some of the ribosome significantly slow down the action of drugs, while others make them generally useless. Artificial ribosomes can be programmed to create all types of proteins.
"These artificial ribosome may be useful in the creation of rare specific proteins. When you can program the ribosome to disable certain cells, you can create exactly the protein that you need, in this case many times growing effectiveness of drugs, "- says James Collins, a biologist of John Church.
Experts say that the programmed ribosomes can also create an exact copy of the active molecules in existing formulations. These "mirror" of development, may be impervious to the enzymes of the human body, which are often used to block chemicals. "They will have a high degree of stability in the natural environment," — says the Church.
Note that the first time to synthesize ribosomes almost 40 years ago, but then they existed only under certain conditions, tight temperature and salinity, in addition, scientists then could not get the ribosome replicate, you need to create artificial life.
However, there are some concerns at the expense of the creation of such systems. Of panacea for all ills in no time they can become lethal weapons, from which there is no salvation. "Samples of artificial life and medications that can not be decomposed in natural enzymes are of serious concern. Once such a system will, terrorists and criminals will start hunting for them ", — said David Magnus, director of the Biomedical Center at Stanford University.
"It is clear that the free access to such developments should be restricted. All scientists who are engaged in similar studies, while aware of this, "- he said. Magnus sure that at least the very first artificial organisms are grown in superkontroliruemyh conditions and is likely to further chemical laboratory and did not come out.
"At first glance, it sounds terrible, but such organisms may be completely autonomous, although they will need food and energy, so from the outside they do will depend on" — suggests Magnus.
John Church, said that the creation of artificial ribosome helped them, Google, and a renowned expert Michael Dzhyuitt, who is also synthesizing proteins. Previously Michael Dzhyuitt found possible to produce 54 proteins with only three molecules of RNA, which eventually totaled ribosome.