Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Synthetic Cell Brings Up Old Ethical Questions

This week the scientific community excited and intrigued by Craig’s Venter’s Mycoplasma mycoides, which is being called the first synthetic cell. Venter (and his lab by the same name) created this organism out of extracted DNA from an existing bacterium, manipulated and restrung it, then inserted into an empty bacterium shell. The DNA survived and the result was a living organism that has been created, according to Venter, by a computer. However, that leads to questions; questions about the significance and consequences of such a creation. Newsweek’s article, Let There Be Life, provides five different points of views in response to “what now?” inquiries. First there are two obviously opposing camps: proponents and skeptics; second there are the propositions of what this means for the future. Notably, regardless of your feelings about the creation itself, this revelation brings up ethical issues that genetic engineering has been struggling for years. According to Newsweek, the creation of a synthetic cell yet again prompts questions about regulations on research, the uses of the new processes and even if it should be patented. According to Politico 44 , President Obama is putting together an ethics committee to spend six months discussing the various issues to help understand the ethical consequences of this new research. The committee will include scientists, religious leaders, and businesses to consider many different angles on issues like those mentioned in Newsweek and others.

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