Scientists have made some tremendous advances in recent years. Biologists are discovering that life is not as delicate as we once thought. No matter where on Earth we look, we seem to encounter life. Hardy bacteria that can thrive in the harshest of conditions. From the extreme heat of thermal springs and deep sea hydrothermal vents to the harsh conditions found in nuclear reactors, bacteria and other microbes find a way to prosper. We have exposed bacteria to the harshness of space on the outside of the international space station, only to discover later that the bacteria hadn’t been killed off, but had survived the exposure and were able to grow again upon return to normal conditions.
Last year a team of researchers from Microsoft and the University of Washington announced that they had stored and read back over 200 MB of digital data stored on laboratory synthesized DNA molecules. To put this in context, a typical picture on a smartphone is in the region of 3 – 5 MB. Last week another team reported that they had made further strides and have managed to store more information using DNA than was previously possible.
At the turn of 2017 a team of scientists led by a professor Romesburg published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the US. The paper detailed their achievement of creating a semi synthetic life form. For years, scientists have had the ability to manipulate genes and we see the benefit with improved medicines and disease resistant crops. We even had Dolly the sheep and glow in the dark rabbits. Genetic engineering has become almost commonplace.
DNA is the life code, the blueprint if you like, for designing living organisms. Just like in construction, changing the blueprint will result in a different end product. Biotechnology has traditionally used the same technique, tweaking the blueprint.