Biodiversity and conservation
Biodiversity and general ecology issues

Ken Novak's Weblog

daily link  Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Craig Venter update: Nice summary of Venter's latest work by Steve Jurvetson.  "Craig Venter set sail around the world to shotgun sequence the millions of viruses and bacteria in every spoonful of sea water. From the first five ocean samples, this team grew the number of known genes on the planet by 10x and the number of genes involved in solar energy conversion by 100x. The ocean microorganisms have evolved over a longer period of time and have pathways that are more efficient than photosynthesis.

Another discovery: every 200 miles across the open ocean, the microbial genes are up to 85% different. The oceans are not homogenous masses. They consist of myriad uncharted regions of ecological diversity… and the world’s largest digital database.

From the collection of digital genomes, we are learning to decode and reprogram the information systems of biology. Like computer hackers, we can leverage a prior library of evolved code, assemblers and subsystems. Many of the radical applications lie outside of medicine.

At the Venter Institute, Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith are leading the Minimal Genome Project. They take the Mycoplasma genitalium from the human urogenital tract, and strip out 200 unnecessary genes, thereby creating the simplest synthetic organism that can self-replicate (at about 300 genes). They plan to layer new functionality on to this artificial genome – to make a solar cell or to generate hydrogen from water using the sun’s energy for photonic hydrolysis – by splicing cassettes of novel genes discovered in the oceans for energy conversion from sunlight. ..

The limiting factor is our understanding of these complex systems, but our pace of learning has been compounding exponentially. We will learn more about genetics and the origins of disease in the next 10 years than we have in all of human history. "  Also see Venter's latest company, Synthetic Genomics.  7:47:25 PM  permalink  

Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 12:55:13 PM.
0 page reads.