July 3, 2010

James Joyce Synthetic Cell

To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.

The above quote from James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was inscribed as a watermark into the DNA of the much-discussed synthetic cell created a couple of months back by Craig Venter’s team. From The Loom:

The scientists who produced the new synthetic cell copied the genome of a microbe, letter for letter, and then inserted the synthetic version into a host cell. To determine that their experiment worked, they needed a way to tell the genomes of their synthetic cells from the natural genomes that were their model. So they inserted “watermarks” into the artificial genome. These sequences of DNA (which spelled out the work of Joyce and others through the genetic code) sit in non-coding regions of the microbe’s DNA. As a result, these watermarks cannot disrupt any essential protein-coding genes or stretches of DNA that are vital for switching genes on and off.