minimal cell

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Cells

Sitting in a diner alone with minimal cell service sucked, Levi got there by hitch hiking and was hoping he’d be able to find someone who could drive him back into town so he could get back home. He was heading back home for spring break but it was a surprise and his family didn’t know. Though at this rate he wasn’t going to be getting back anytime soon if no one would let him hitch a ride. He sighed out loudly, walking away from a couple who denied him saying they were going the opposite way.

Levi walked to the next table, standing beside it he spoke up to the man that was there. “Excuse me,” he looked him over a moment until he finally turned to look at him. “I’m hoping you could help me.” He began. “I’ve been here for hours trying to find a ride back into town. Do you think you could help me out? I’ve got money I could give you for gas– I just need a ride. Nothing else.” He braced himself to be denied again, waiting for the other guy to respond.

@mason-finch

‘Minimal’ cell raises stakes in race to harness synthetic life

Genomics entrepreneur Craig Venter has created a synthetic cell that contains the smallest genome of any known, independent organism. Functioning with 473 genes, the cell is a milestone in his team’s 20-year quest to reduce life to its bare essentials and, by extension, to design life from scratch.

Venter, who has co-founded a company that seeks to harness synthetic cells for making industrial products, says that the feat heralds the creation of customized cells to make drugs, fuels and other products. But an explosion in powerful ‘gene-editing’ techniques, which enable relatively easy and selective tinkering with genomes, raises a niggling question: why go to the trouble of making life from scratch when you can simply tweak it?

Unlike the first synthetic cells made in 20101, in which Venter’s team at the J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla, California, copied an existing bacterial genome and transplanted it into another cell, the genome of the minimal cells is like nothing in nature. Venter says that the cell, which is described in a paper released on 24 March in Science2, constitutes a brand new, artificial species.

Each cell of JCVI-syn3.0 contains just 473 genes, fewer than any other independent organism. Thomas Deerinck and Mark Ellisman/NCMIR/UCSD

Creation of minimal cell with just the genes needed for independent life

Researchers have designed and synthesized a minimal bacterial genome, containing only the genes necessary for life, and consisting of just 473 genes. This advances the team’s groundbreaking research published in 2010, in which they built and booted up the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell, providing proof of principle that genomes can be designed in the computer, chemically made in the lab, and transplanted into a recipient cell to produce a new, self-replicating cell controlled only by the synthetic genome. After this the team - led by Craig Venter and Clyde Hutchison - set about their ultimate objective, a goal since 1995, to synthesize a minimal cell containing only the genes necessary to sustain life in its simplest form, an effort that could help scientists understand the function of every essential gene in a cell.

To do this work, Venter, Hutchison and colleagues again turned to Mycoplasma, bacteria possessing the smallest known genomes of any autonomously replicating cells. In 2010, the researchers had synthesized the genome of Mycoplasma mycoides. Here, based on existing literature, the researchers designed hypothetical minimal genomes in eight different segments, each of which could be tested in order to accurately classify constituent genes as essential or not. During this design-build-test process, the researchers also sought to identify quasi-essential genes, those needed for robust growth but not absolutely required for life. In a series of experiments, Venter, Hutchison and colleagues inserted transposons (or foreign genetic sequences) into numerous genes to disrupt their functions and determine which ones were necessary to the overall functioning of the bacteria. They whittled away at the synthetic, reduced genome, repeating experiments until no more genes could be disrupted and the genome was as small as possible. Critically, analysis revealed that some genes initially classified as “non-essential” do in fact perform the same essential function as a second gene; thus, one of the pair of genes needs to be retained in the minimal genome. A final version, dubbed JCVI-syn3.0, comprises 473 genes - a genome smaller than that of any autonomously replicating cell found in nature to date. The researchers’ minimal genome lacks all DNA-modifying and restriction genes and most genes encoding lipoproteins. In contrast, almost all genes involved in reading and expressing the genetic information in the genome, as well as in preserving genetic information across generations, are retained. Interestingly, the precise biological functions of roughly 31% of the JCVI-syn3.0 genes remain undiscovered. However, several potential homologs for a number of these genes were found in other organisms, suggesting they encode universal proteins with functions yet to be determined. The JCVI-syn3.0 platform represents a versatile tool for investigating the core functions of life.

BRB

HI TUMBLR, I’M FINALLY GOING TO JAPAN

this has been a long time coming; I’ll be studying abroad in Tokyo! I leave tomorrow for a ten day trip with my family in Kyoto and Tokyo, and then I’ll be studying at Sophia University for a month! I’m super hyped about this

I am, however, going to have minimal cell phone data and wifi availability, so I might not be online as much (although this affects tumblr less than it does my near-constant screaming on twitter). I’m setting up a queue that should at least last through the vacation end of the trip while I run around with my family. I do intend to keep drawing in Japan! I’ll post fanart! I’ll keep working on Hack & Slash! No need to fear this isn’t an actual hiatus really.

Have a great day, everyone! I love you all