Matt Wuerker

定制生命

发自墨尔本——早在16世纪,一位叫巴拉塞尔西斯的炼金术士就提出了一个创造新生命的秘诀,那就是把精子注入腐烂的“venter equinus”里面,这个词通常被翻译为“马粪”,但拉丁文的“venter”其实是腹部或者子宫的意思。

而如今那些江湖术士们无疑会感到欣慰,因为一个叫克雷格·温特(Craig Venter)的人所资助的科学家团队刚刚在上月宣布成功创造了一个人造生命:这是一个细菌,而它携带的基因则是在实验室里设计并化学合成出来的。

这个被昵称为“辛西娅(Synthia,意为‘人造人’)”的细菌拥有复制和制造蛋白质的能力。不管用何种定义,这都是一个活生生的东西。虽然这个细菌的绝大部分结构都是复制自另一个天然细菌,但创造者向其基因组中嵌入了一组特别的DNA序列来证明它不是一个自然产物。把这些基因序列转译成字符编码之后就是几位研究者的名字,还有一些诸如理查德·费曼所说的“只有我理解不了的东西,没有我造不出来的东西”之类的名言。

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