Synthetic Microbes - a New Scientific Breakthrough

The advancement in the field of genetic engineering has lead to discoveries that have amazed mankind time and again! Conception of the first synthetic self-replicating species is simply astonishing!
| Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Genetic engineering, till now, dealt with experimenting on natural life with successful projects like splitting of an atom and clone technology. Synthetic microbes are a huge step forward that has shaken up the minds of people world over. There also has been a lot of opposition to this discovery due to the fear of its misuse and there have been a few revolts for its ban.

What are Synthetic Microbes?

Synthetic microbes are non-biological species that can reproduce by its own self. This discovery has been made by Dr. Craig Venter along with his team. They copied the genetic code of a bacterium and transferred it to the computer. They then produced a synthetic copy by assembling the chemical building blocks. The synthetic genetic code was then transplanted into another bacterium whose genome was removed. The bacterium now lives controlled by an artificially created genetic code (synthetic DNA).

The synthetic cell or synthetic bug creation can be celebrated as one of the major breakthroughs in the field of science. This discovery has been arising mixed feelings. On one hand we understand that the synthetic microbes can solve many problems. On the other hand, a fear has also set in that if this discovery is used for an in appropriate purpose it can cause a huge disaster.

Every scientific discovery has two sides: the good and the bad.

Advantages of Synthetic Organisms

  • Synthesizing newer drugs to control various diseases. Medical science has been constantly active in discovering better drug options which are more effective and have fewer side effects at an affordable cost.
  • Producing bio fuels or other useful chemicals like bio-pesticides. This would lead to promote the green revolution minimizing the loss of harvests due to various reasons.
  • The technology can be used to cure life threatening diseases like cancer and HIV, which have been on the rise of late due to a number of factors.
  • Controlling disasters like oil spills can be done with this technology. Artificially created microbes can eat away the toxins thereby purifying the water bodies and protecting the life within it.
  • Keeping a check on the pollution will be advantageous with this technology. Synthetic microbes can destroy the toxins in the air that cause a number of hazards.

Disadvantages of Synthetic Organisms

  • It would take no time to convert this blessing into a curse if the technology falls in the hands of terrorists. The life of millions all over the world would be at stake.
  • Synthetic pathogens can be created which may be more potent and infectious than the normal species. Crowded places like shopping malls, local vehicles, airports can be targeted and the infectious spread can kill millions. It is possible today to detect a bomb planted in some public place but how would anyone detect the presence of such biological bombs?
  • Creation of a different kind of life form is another fear that can be encountered. These living beings since are capable of self reproduction; these can mutate to form dangerous organisms which can cause unexpected destruction.

Synthetic DNA can drastically change the world if used ethically and taking all kinds of safety measures. Biological revolution is a welcome change, if at all it works in favor of human development otherwise it not at all can be said to be a boon but becomes a bane.