Creating artificial life

Synthetic biology is the hottest thing in microbiology. No surprise then that the Kluyver Centre invited Dan Gibson, the first man to create a synthetic cell as the keynote speaker of its annual symposium.

In the May 20th online edition of Science 2010, researchers at the renowned J. Craig Venter Institute reported that they had created a synthetic copy of a bacterial genome and used it to commandeer the cell of a closely related species. In other words, “we created a synthetic cell,” said lead author, Dan Gibson, during his presentation last Tuesday at the Kluyver Centre’s annual microbiology symposium.

For his audience however it came as no surprise to subsequently hear Gibson say that he and his colleagues “only have the foggiest idea how to make a genome from scratch” and that they always need a blueprint to start with. Everybody has his own definition of synthetic life, according to the researcher. “I try not to get caught up in semantics.”

Science magazine Nature explained the proceedings as follows: “The Americans started off with a highly accurate genome sequence they had copied from the bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides. Using this as a template, they ordered a set of short DNA strands, each about 1,000 base pairs long and then inserted these strands into a yeast cell, where the yeast’s own genetic machinery strung them together into a copy of the natural M. mycoides genome. They transplanted this genome into a cell of a closely related bacterial species.”

Gibson now wants to use this technique to develop a simple cell containing a genome that is fully understood: “We want to know what every gene does and in what sequence genes have to be placed in the genome in order to function.” This will allow researchers  to understand where they must insert new genes in order to develop bacteria with specific properties: bacteria that produce medicines, for instance, or biofuels.

‘Frankenstein cell’ M. mycoides will not serve as a platform for making useful products, however, although the microorganism has been useful in demonstrating the principle of synthetic biology. The big challenge now, Gibson says, is to perform the same trick with bacteria that are easier to grow and have more interesting – but also much larger and thus more complex - genomes, like the photo-synthesizing cyanobacteria, which could be used to produce biofuels. 

Andere partijen die inleverden zijn Leefbaar Delft, van vier naar één zetel, en het CDA en SP. Zij leveren beide één zetel in en komen uit op respectievelijk vier en twee zetels.

Studenten Techniek in Politiek (Stip) won één zetel en komt uit op drie. Ook GroenLinks wint één zetel en gaat van vier naar vijf. De VVD behoudt vier zetels. Stadsbelangen blijft op twee zetels staan. ChristenUnie (zonder SGP) blijft op één. De nieuweling Onafhankelijk Delft komt met drie zetels in de gemeenteraad.

De opkomst was 54 procent, vier procent minder dan in 2006. De definitieve uitslag wordt om tien uur bekendgemaakt. Dan is ook bekend wie met voorkeurstemmen in de raad komen.