Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Simplified life

There has been recent attempts to create an organism with the smallest genome possible. Previously, the mycoplasmas, a genus of bacteria, were identified as forms of life with minimal genetic code. These bacteria, which lack a cell wall, have been proposed as ideal model organisms to study as a means of understanding the basic genetic requirements essential for life. Mycoplasma genitalium was sequenced and revealed the smallest genome of any autonomously replicating cell found naturally (525 genes). Recently, scientists have tried to create an organism with an even smaller genome with the rationale that all of Mycoplasma genitalium’s 525 genes were not essential and if some could be stripped away, it would lead researchers to discover the absolute minimum code required for life.  After manipulation, a synthetic strain of Mycoplasma labeled (JCV-syn1.0) was created with only 473 genes. Although only ~250 genes appeared to be essential for proper growth, it was discovered that there may be quasi-essential genes that have implications in robust growth of this bacteria. There were also 149 genes that had unknown biological functions yet appeared important when creating this bacteria strain. This work is intriguing and will hopefully lead us to a better understanding of the building blocks of life. Although this is an attempt to simplify life, the results turned out to be very complex. 

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