Synthias, the gamble too far?

This entry was posted on Friday, May 21st, 2010

Scientists in the USA have created the first synthetic living cell, transplanting synthetic DNA, constructed digitally, into a host cell and recorded their discovery in Science magazine. Ethics apart,  could this be a gamble too far?

Dr Craig Venter’s team have found the last piece in the jigsaw required to play creator and could be betting the house. Many will find breaching the mysteries protecting the secrets of life, frightening and best left alone. Are we about to let the genie out of the bottle, with little confidence of putting it back?

Given the stunning surprise greeting the news of the discovery, the research may have proceeded without any regulation at all. Stem cell research, genetic modification, etc… were held back for years before slowly being unleashed. This work seems to have slipped the safety net. Heaven help us if it gets out of control and falls into the wrong hands.

It maybe Dr Venter’s team is a group that is known and respected yet the authorities who gave the permissions and funding seem to have lacked judgement in allowing such research without apparent controls being established.  Already we are told of  mega rapid rate of reproduction in billions.

This development goes beyond ethics and religious issues of playing creator, and whilst it maybe the development has potential benefits in many areas, acting as a speeded up made-to-measure genetic engineering process, it must come with colossal potential risks of unleashing the Armageddon we fear for our world.

Venter’s team seem to have achieved the first self-replicating life form whose origin is a human brain telling a computer to compose the DNA for it.  We normally value academe, but allowing the work to get out of control puts us in a fearsome danger zone we’ve never been near before.

I can only hope that the authorities will quickly step in and impose proper regulations for future groundbreaking work of the kind done by Dr Venter’s team so that we do not let genies out, and end up having to cash our chips.

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