Promoters of Genome Project-write (Gp-write), which aims at creating the first synthetic human genome, recently announced the re-opening of the project, even if on a smaller scale, at a conference in Boston. The project now focuses on ultra-safe cell, yet financing still proves to be a problem…
Gp-write gets restarted…
The mapping of the human genome was completed in April 2013 and in 2016 an even more ambitious project was begun, the Human Genome Project Write (Gp-Write) which aims at creating synthetic human DNA for the first time ever, allowing vaccinations and biological medicine to be produced due to synthetic human cells that are able to resist any form of virus. More than 200 researchers coordinated by expert biologist Jef Boeke from the University of New York are working on the project, which is logically the next step after the mapping of human DNA and the creation of the first synthetic bacteria, or rather, bacteria that lacks a biological genetic code since it was created on a computer. This project may have landmark implications for medicine and more.
…but on a smaller scale
From the moment this project began, several obstacles were encountered given how complex the project is and, consequently, the significant amount of funds required. For this reason, objectives were re-defined. Last May researchers came up with a new goal that, as journalist Elie Dolgin explains on the Nature magazine website, was originally only supposed to be a pilot project- the creation of ultra-safe cells. “This alone is quite an ambitious project”, highlights Sheref Mansy, an expert at the Centre for Integrative Biology (Cibio) at the University of Trento. “New technologies are needed to reach this goal and this is the point”. After all, theoretical science and technological advancements have always gone hand in hand.
What are ultra-safe cells?
Cells that are able to resist any type of virus, radiation, freezing, aging and cancer. It’s no wonder they are called “ultra-safe cells”. In order to create these cells, experts need to successfully recode DNA, or rather, modify the sequence of the three letters that, during protein synthesis, determine the inclusion of certain amino acids. Once these codons are modified, the cells become virus-proof in that viruses cannot reproduce and cause infection. We are not talking about a theoretical concept. An experiment was already successfully carried out by removing all 321 instances of a single codon from the E. coli genome. To give an idea of just how complex this project is, an ultra- safe cell line would require at least 400,000 changes to the human genome.
Funding is the real problem
“The best way to understand the biology of a living being is to create it. We have done this with viruses, bacteria, yeast and I do believe that in the future we can do the same with man. If we adhere to certain ethical and safety standards, why shouldn’t we make this effort? We shouldn’t be afraid to understand ourselves”, says Sheref Mansy. But not everyone has the same opinion. Maybe this is why the project still lacks dedicated funding two years after it was launched.
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