Scientists Make Artificial Cell That Can Grow and Divide Like a ‘Real’ One

It’s a new first for genetic engineering.

Video Transcript

- It's a brave new world. For the first time, scientists have engineered a single-celled organism that can grow and divide just like a normal cell. The bacteria like life form called JCVI-syn3A, is the culmination of many years of genome sequencing. The research published in "Cell" could one day lead to an understanding of the function of every gene allowing scientists to build a complete model of a functioning cell.

The breakthrough comes after scientists created a species of synthetic bacteria with only 473 genes, fewer than any self-sustaining natural organism. The shorter genetic profile caused the cell to divide in an unusual non-natural way, but now the team has figured out how to prevent the strange morphologies from occurring with the addition of only 19 extra genes. While the function of all the genes remains a mystery, the new genome brings scientists one step closer towards understanding the fundamental design rules of life.