Scientists intend to have fully synthesised the genome in a living cell – which would make the material functional – within ten years, at a projected cost of $1 billion
In the not so far off future, we could have the technology to fully replicate any living species known to man. Of course, such advancements are downplayed as fantastical even by the scientists who are working on synthesising DNA, but if such technologies are eventually possible, do we really believe a fully synthetic Human will not be attempted?
In July 2015, 100 geneticists met at the New York Genome Center to discuss yeast. At 12 million base pairs long, it’s the largest genome scientists have tried to produce synthetically.
Andrew Hessel, a researcher with the Bio/Nano research group at software company Autodesk, was invited to speak at the event. The audience asked him which organism should be synthesised next. “I said, ‘Look around the room. You’ve got hardly anyone here and you’re doing the most sophisticated genetic engineering in the world,” Hessel recalls. “Why don’t you take a page out of history and set the bar high? Do the human genome.”
A Science paper published after the meeting formally laid out the group’s proposal: to dramatically advance DNA-synthesis technologies so that the artificial production of genomes becomes easier, faster, and cheaper. Currently, we can synthesise short strands of DNA, up to about 200 base pairs long, but the average gene has several thousand base pairs. Even this limited process is inefficient, costly and slow. But it’s vital: in biological sciences, synthesised DNA is the foundation of experiments that drive everything from cancer research to vaccine development. For scientists, it’s like working with a blunt yet necessary instrument.
The immense three-billion-base-pair human genome is seen as the project’s ultimate goal, dangling like a carrot to drive innovation.
With Transhumanist’s also working at ever faster speeds to combine man with machine, you can be certain the future of human society is in for some big changes, the question is not if but when!