Synthetic life has been created in the laboratory in a feat of ingenuity that pushes the boundaries of humanitys ability to manipulate the natural world. Craig Venter, the biologist who led the effort to map the human genome, said yesterday that the first cell controlled entirely by man-made genetic instructions had been produced. The synthetic bacterium, nicknamed Synthia, has been hailed as a step change in biological engineering, allowing the creation of organisms with specialised functions that could never have evolved in nature. The team at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, is investigating how the technology could yield microbes that make vaccines, and algae that turn carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon biofuels. The achievement has, however, stirred ethical concerns. Critics called for tighter regulation, citing the potential for bioterror or bioerror that could endanger health or the environment. Though this is a baby step, it enables a change in philosophy, a change in thinking, a change in the tools we have. This cell weve made is not a miracle cell thats useful for anything, it is a proof of concept. But the proof of concept was key, otherwise it is just speculation and science fiction. This takes us across that border, into a new world. Julian Savulescu, Professor of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said: Venter is creaking open the most profound door in humanitys history, potentially peeking into its destiny. He is going towards the role of a god: creating artificial life that could never have existed naturally. The potential is in the far future, but real and significant. But the risks are also unparalleled. David King, of the pressure group Human Genetics Alert, called for a moratorium on similar research and Pat Mooney, of the ETC Group, which campaigns against biotechnology, said: This is a Pandoras box moment. Well all have to deal with the fallout from this alarming experiment. Source: The Times (UK) ...makes you wonder - what else have they already 'created' in that lab that they aren't telling us about? A genetically-engineered human baby? I am also wondering about the significance of the fact that they used a Mycoplasma bacterium (probably not pathogenic, but with artificial DNA, who knows?) - will we experience another infectious disease epidemic as the one we are experiencing with HIV? And I haven't even touched the ethical/moral issues this raises. Does this prove the non-existence of God or His intelligence? Jamani!