July 24, 2012

Virtual Germ?

Check out this article by Paul Marks which was posted in New Scientist at this link.

Virtual germ created on computer for first time
by Paul Marks, Chief Technology Correspondent, New Scientist

In a move that promises to bring the advantages of computer aided design (CAD) to genetic engineers, the first computer model of a complete bacterium has been produced in the US. It means researchers will soon be able to modify models of an organism's genome on a computer screen - or create artificial lifeforms - without the risks of undertaking wet biology in secure biosafety labs.

The pathogen is called Mycoplasma genitalium, a bacterium implicated in a number of urethral and vaginal infections. The bug was ripe for modelling say researchers at Stanford University in California, because it has the smallest genome of any free-living organism, with just 525 genes. By contrast, the popular lab pathogen E. coli has 4288 genes.

The modelling was undertaken by bioengineer Markus Covert and colleagues. To get the raw data for their model, they undertook an exhaustive literature review - spanning 900 research papers - to allow them to program into their model some 1900 experimentally observed behaviours and molecular interactions that M. genitalium can take part in during its life cycle.

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