Building a Human Genome from Scratch

Saturday, June 11, 2016 - 20:35

Creating a synthetic human genome will require assembling 3 billion base-pairs, each of which can be represented as a rung on the twisting ladder of a DNA molecule.

According to IEEE, a group of leading geneticists want to take 3 billion chemical building blocks and assemble them into one complete package of DNA, encoding all the body parts and life processes in a synthetic genome that can make up a functional human being.

As Jef Boeke, one of the pioneers of this proposal, said they are not planning to make synthetic people so the disclaimer is necessary to allay raised concerns in some quarters that scientists were secretly plotting to create human beings without biological parents.

The organizers say their project follows the model of the Human Genome Project, a 13-year effort declared complete in 2003. In that mighty undertaking, geneticists sequenced an entire human genome, which means they took a sample of DNA and read out its sequence of 3 billion “letters,” the As, Gs, Cs, and Ts used to represent DNA’s four chemical units. Boeke and his collaborators call their new proposal the Human Genome Project-Write, and describe its aims in an article published today in Science.

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