This man-made cell has the smallest genome ever — but a third of its genes are a mystery
The news is from J. Craig Venter Institute. They had previously been known for putting together a synthetic combination of DNA which survived in a cell and was capable of reproduction.
DNA is the molecule that forms our genes. These are used for coding proteins, which do the work of our cells. Cells are the basic unit of biology. DNA is also needed for reproduction, to pass the information to offspring. Humans have trillions of cells, and most of them contain their own set of DNA. Some organisms, like bacteria, have only one cell, but still need DNA to make protein and for reproduction. You have probably seen, but if you want you can see in the picture in the link below, DNA looks like a twisted ladder. Each step of the ladder has a smaller molecule that acts, in sequence with the other steps, as a code for the protein so it can be made correctly. There are 4 types of steps which are called bases and in bacteria it takes about 1000 bases per gene. And as the WP article points out, “to build a DNA code that will support life, you need to be pretty much error-free.”
Picture from NIH, National Human Genome Research Institute, Talking Glossary, Double Helix: The link is (you have to hit the illustration button for the picture):
Scientists have been trying to determine what is the least number of genes a single cell, such as a bacterium, can have and still stay alive. They had thought it would be in the vicinity of 250, but have found, at least in this approach, that more genes are needed than they thought. They came up with 473. (There are 32% they don’t know their function.) This means that close to half a million bases in exact order is the minimal amount for an organism to function.
An abstract of the new scientific paper is here:
What are the chances that even half of that, an exact sequence of 250,000 bases, could have randomly come together to start life, composing a complete genome which codes for life processes including transfer of light energy to sugar, breakdown of that sugar to make the structures of the proteins, reproduction and other functions, and organize all of it in tiny cells? This could not have happened by chance even in billions of years.
Praise God for His Creation.