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Coming soon: A second genesis

March 13, 2009 00:15 IST

Scientists are on track to develop artificial life 'within five years', claimed US researchers, who suggested that laboratories across the world are drawing close to the threshold of a "second genesis".

Discovering -- or engineering -- a second genesis wouldn't just broaden our view of life. Alternative life forms could supply biotechnologists with fresh molecules and new functions that they could apply to practical problems.

David Deamer, a biochemist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has argued for three decades that scientists would create synthetic life in 'five or 10 years'. Finally, he might actually be right.

'The momentum is building. We are knocking at the door,' he was quoted as saying by the New Scientist online on Thursday.

Labs are closing in on a 'second genesis' -- an achievement that would be one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of all time.

A synthetic, made-to-order living system could produce everything from new drugs to bio-fuels and greenhouse gas absorbers, the report said.

The finishing line could be in sight after geneticists Professor George Church and Dr Michael Jewett, of Harvard Medical School, informed a synthetic biology conference in Hong Kong that they had synthetically created part of a cell, called a ribosome, New Scientist reported.

The breakthrough offers hope that they could develop an entire cell. 'There's nothing you'd expect to go wrong -- the way we expected things to go wrong with the assembly,' Professor Church said.

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