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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Media: scientists have secretly agreed to create a synthetic human


In the media leaked information that on may 10 at Harvard held a secret meeting to establish a synthetic human genome. It was attended by about 150 people, including scientists, lawyers and entrepreneurs. The participants of the meeting, after it became known, stated that their immediate goal is much more modest than the creation of an “artificial person”.

Frame from the movie “Surrogates”

As explained by the American science journalist Andrew Pollack, a member of the New York Times, the original meeting was called HGP2: draft synthesis of the human genome”, and, although later it was renamed to at least “Test large synthetic genomes in cells,” according to the journalist, the meeting was planned to conduct just about creating a fully synthetic genome from scratch. Moreover, in the invitation it was mentioned that to achieve this, the researchers would like in ten years.

The main organizer of the meeting, the representative of Harvard University, George Church explains a similar interpretation of the “arising from a misunderstanding” and claims that during the meeting they only discussed the prospects for the production of long DNA strands that could be useful, including, when working with genes of animals and plants, not necessarily human. However, the secrecy of the meeting and the details of his training forced Pollack to doubt the sincerity of the scientist.

To produce an organism with the genome, obtained by artificial means, the scientists managed for the first time in 2010, when a group of researchers under rukovodstvom Craig Venter reproduced the DNA of the bacteria Mycoplasma mycoides. The human genome is much more complicated, but in General the possibility to create a synthetic bacterium can attest to the fact that in the same way to reproduce human DNA is also potentially possible.

Around the same time as about the secret meeting at Harvard, became aware of another event, looking somewhat less sensational, but in “applied” with respect to having even greater significance — the Japanese government approved the genetic modification of human embryos for research purposes. The main objectives, which may require experiments of this kind are considered to be new treatments for congenital diseases and improvement of technologies of artificial insemination. Informed about genetic modification of human embryos, said Chinese experts, and in February of the current year such studies were permitted in the UK.

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