“We Will Send Robots to Read the Genomes of Alien Life Forms and Replicate Them Back on Earth”
In 2010, Craig Venter, who helped map the human genome, became the first to successfully create “synthetic life,” using chemicals and inserting DNA into the cell of a bacteria —putting humankind at the threshold of the most important and exciting phase of biological research, one that will enable us to actually write the genetic code for designing new species to help us adapt and evolve for long-term survival.Venter, the scientist famed for his role in sequencing the human genome, has answered a question that lies at the heart of biology: “What is life?” Life, he asserts, is wholly reducible to the “DNA machines” and “protein robots” that operate within cells, and he hopes to prove it by constructing organisms entirely from scratch, detailing an ambitious vision for a future in which custom-made organisms heal the planet, unlock life’s origins and extend humanity’s reach beyond Earth in his new book, Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life.
Venter believes scientists will soon be designing basic organisms to include features useful in farming or medicine, as well as sending robots into space to read the sequence of alien life forms and replicate them back on Earth: “In years to come it will be increasingly possible to create a wide variety of [synthetic] cells from computer-designed software. The creation of cells from scratch will open up extraordinary possibilities.”
Venter predicts in the future machines will be able to analyse the make up of genomes and transmit this through the internet or even space, creating more possibilities in the search for alien life: “The day is not far off when we will be able to send a robotically controlled genome sequencing unit to other planets to read the DNA sequence of any alien microbe life that may be there. If we can … beam them back to Earth we should be able to reconstruct their genomes. The synthetic version of a Martian genome could then be used to recreate Martian life on Earth.”
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