col_w
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7893414.stm

From the end of the article:

Quote:
Another way to determine what alternative life might look like is to try to invent it ourselves.

If we can create new molecules which can behave in life-like way, we may then go out and look for these in the environment, says Professor Steven Benner, of the University of Florida.

His team have created perhaps the closest yet to a man-made alternative form of life.

"We are announcing the first example of an artificial synthetic chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution," he told the conference.

"Is it alive? Well, I can tell you that it is not self-sustaining.

"You have to have a graduate student stand there and feed it from time to time, but it is evolving."

The molecule is essentially a modified version of our own DNA double helix - but with six "letters" in its genetic alphabet, instead of four.

These nucleotides pair up in strands, which can replicate, though only with the help of polymerase enzymes and heat.

"Sometimes mistakes are made in pairing and these mistakes are maintained in the next generation - it is evolving," said Prof Brenner.

"The next step is to apply natural selection to it, to see if it can evolve under selective pressure.

"The accepted definition of life is a molecule capable of Darwinian evolution, so we are trying to put together molecules that are capable of doing it."


Just... wow... an artificial 6-base DNA strand that can replicate and evolve... I am gobsmacked that this is not much, much bigger news.... this should have made headlines around the world.

The scientist invlolved has his own Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Benner
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True Blue Jon
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Cool!
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J
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God is going to be PISSED!
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Tom Hancock
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quozl wrote:
Cool!


What? A chemical compound that can evolve is cool? Don't you read science fiction?


When a cross between a giant amoeba and the terminator is trying to kill you in five years you won't think this is too cool!



THAT will be YOU in there, quozl!
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Mystery McMysteryface
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You guys shouldn't worry. This "it" is in FLORIDA!!!

It will get me 1st!!!

OMG!!! It is alive...............!!!!!!!!!!


Noooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!
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I would not call lack of a genetic proof reading system as evolution?

Usually polymerase makes a mistake in incorporation every 1000bp or so, but it varies by polymerase. There are some really high fidelity ones that can make as much as 10kb without a mistake.

But then again, most organisms with DNA that replicate have a proof reading system, and if there is an incorrect BP incorporation will often times fix it. Both during DNA synthesis as well as DNA repair, if a mismatch as opposed to an incorrect incorporation.

So i am not certain that I would call that 'evolution'. Since all they have is "DNA" that they add heat and polymerase to.


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True Blue Jon
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hancock.tom wrote:
quozl wrote:
Cool!


What? A chemical compound that can evolve is cool? Don't you read science fiction?


When a cross between a giant amoeba and the terminator is trying to kill you in five years you won't think this is too cool!



THAT will be YOU in there, quozl!


Looks like jello. Cool!
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John So-And-So
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Toggy wrote:

So i am not certain that I would call that 'evolution'. Since all they have is "DNA" that they add heat and polymerase to.


Maybe my layman's understanding of science is the problem here, but this seems like saying "I wouldn't call that a sandwich, all it is is bread that they added meat and cheese to".
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jarredscott78 wrote:
God is going to be PISSED!


Oh, Yeah!!

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Psst! That's not God.
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CapAp wrote:
Toggy wrote:

So i am not certain that I would call that 'evolution'. Since all they have is "DNA" that they add heat and polymerase to.


Maybe my layman's understanding of science is the problem here, but this seems like saying "I wouldn't call that a sandwich, all it is is bread that they added meat and cheese to".


Given that evolution works in two ways, natural selection vs genetic drift. In natural selection you have a selective pressure, a choice, shall we say, of advantageous mutations, that are efficacious in survival, you trait that is selected for. So in this case advantageous traits/mutations are selected for, while deleterious traits are selected against. There is no selection in their system. So they are not achieving evolution through natural selection. In fact they don't even have a trait. Just some nucleotides. And evolution deals with inherited traits.

The other is genetic drift -- in general is the theory of speciation. It has to do with allele frequency, and traits moving together or separately. And gene linkage. And elimination of alleles and traits through change. There isnt selective pressure for a trait. Its more random. And some of the changes can be silent, not actually even effecting the trait, but can still be selected for in a population.

But thats more of less evolution.

So I suppose my real basis for complaint is that they are calling mutations evolution. Which is not the case. Since there is no trait that they are selecting for.
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Thanks for the excellent analysis, Toggy.
Right, if all changes are maintained in subsequent generation, you just have randomness.

but here's a question for chit-chat:

Quote:

"You have to have a graduate student stand there and feed it from time to time, but it is evolving."


What else can that apply to?
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Bojan Benak
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quozl wrote:
hancock.tom wrote:
quozl wrote:
Cool!


What? A chemical compound that can evolve is cool? Don't you read science fiction?


When a cross between a giant amoeba and the terminator is trying to kill you in five years you won't think this is too cool!



THAT will be YOU in there, quozl!


Looks like jello. Cool!


But in 1958, jello eats YOU!
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Chris B
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Dammit. You just created the CYLONS!!!!
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col_w
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Toggy wrote:
Given that evolution works in two ways, natural selection vs genetic drift. In natural selection you have a selective pressure, a choice, shall we say, of advantageous mutations, that are efficacious in survival, you trait that is selected for. So in this case advantageous traits/mutations are selected for, while deleterious traits are selected against. There is no selection in their system. So they are not achieving evolution through natural selection. In fact they don't even have a trait. Just some nucleotides. And evolution deals with inherited traits.

The other is genetic drift -- in general is the theory of speciation. It has to do with allele frequency, and traits moving together or separately. And gene linkage. And elimination of alleles and traits through change. There isnt selective pressure for a trait. Its more random. And some of the changes can be silent, not actually even effecting the trait, but can still be selected for in a population.

But thats more of less evolution.

So I suppose my real basis for complaint is that they are calling mutations evolution. Which is not the case. Since there is no trait that they are selecting for.


All true. Either way I'm equally parts enthusiastic and scared at the thought of what is possible now, and where it might lead.

What's your background Toggy? I studied molecular biology at university, but unfortunately ended up in IT as a career.
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jessitron wrote:

but here's a question for chit-chat:

Quote:

"You have to have a graduate student stand there and feed it from time to time, but it is evolving."


What else can that apply to?




Right, Toggy?
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col_w wrote:

All true. Either way I'm equally parts enthusiastic and scared at the thought of what is possible now, and where it might lead.

What's your background Toggy? I studied molecular biology at university, but unfortunately ended up in IT as a career.


I will agree with the has the potential to be cool. or terrifying. either way.

Background -- I am working on my PhD at the moment. Getting ready for the qualification exam. Which is why it took so long to reply to the thread. Sorry.
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thermogimp wrote:
jessitron wrote:

but here's a question for chit-chat:

Quote:

"You have to have a graduate student stand there and feed it from time to time, but it is evolving."


What else can that apply to?




Right, Toggy?


You mean your cat doesn't do that? Psh -- you must have not gotten the most recent feline species.
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