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Capitol Health Call
July 14, 2010

Synthetic Cells

JAMA. 2010;304(2):148. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.879

The announcement that scientists had created a “synthetic cell” has captured the attention of Congress, which quickly convened a hearing to learn about the potential advances and risks of synthetic biology.

At the May 25 hearing, members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce heard from J. Craig Venter, PhD, whose research team created the self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell (Gibson DG et al. Science. doi: 10.1126/science.1190719 [published online ahead of print May 20, 2010]). That feat involved synthesizing the 1.1 million base-pair genome of Mycoplasma mycoides and inserting it into a Mycoplasma capricolum cell that had been stripped of its own genome; the synthesized M mycoides genome provided the instructions for the cell to function and replicate.