If we create life in a laboratory, as we to her otnositsa?

What is life? Throughout the greater part of the 20th century this question was not were of great concern to biologists. Life is a term for poets, not scientists, believed synthetic biologist Andrew Ellington in 2008, who began his career with the study of how life began. Despite the words of Ellington, related research of the origin of life and astrobiology renewed focus on the value of life. To recognize another form that life could take four billion years ago, or form that she could take on other planets, scientists need to understand what essentially makes something alive.

Life, however, is a moving target, as noticed long ago philosophers. Aristotle believed “life” and “living” are different concepts — the latter, in his case, it was the totality of existing beings that inhabit our world, like dogs, neighbors and bacteria on the skin. To know life, we must explore alive; but alive is always changing in space and time. In an attempt to define life, we have to consider the life which we know and which we do not know. As the researcher considers the origin of life pier Luigi Luisi from the University of Roma Tre, there is life-what-it-now life-what-she-could-be and life-what-she-once-was. These categories indicate the dilemma, which turned the medieval philosophers-mystics. Life, as they noted, it is always much more than alive, and for this reason, paradoxically, it will never be available to the living. Because of this gap between real life and the possible life, a definition of life focused on its ability to change and evolve, and not be reduced to define the fixed properties of life.

Is it possible to create life in the lab?

In the early 1990s, advising NASA on the possibilities of life on other planets, biologist Gerald Joyce, who is currently working in the Institute of biological studies the Salk in California, helped to develop one of the most widely used definitions of life. It is known as the chemical Darwinian definition: “Life is a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution”. In 2009, after decades of work, the team of Joyce’s published work, which describes RNA molecules capable of catalyzing their own synthesis reaction to create more copies of itself. This chemical system has satisfied the definition of life, Joyce. But no one dared to call it living. The problem is that she didn’t do anything new or unusual.

“Once the genome can surprise its Creator kind of ploy or a new step in the game is almost life — which he does not expect to hear,” so wrote the New York Times about the creation. “If that happened, if it happened to me, I’d be happy,” says Dr. Joyce. And he adds: “I cannot be sure, but it’s alive.”

Joyce is trying to understand life, generating a simple living system in the laboratory. In the process he and other synthetic biologists are embodied in a living form new types of life. Every attempt to synthesize new forms of life points to the fact that there is much more, perhaps even infinitely more possible forms of life. Synthetic biologists can modify the process of development of life or abilities that it develops. Their work raises new questions about opredelnie life on the basis of evolution. To be categorized as a life that was changed, which was the product of a tipping point of evolution, the product of the rupture of the evolutionary chain?

The history of the origin of synthetic biology is rooted in 1977 when drew Endy, one of the founders of synthetic biology, now Professor of bioengineering at Stanford University in California, tried to create a computational model of the simplest form of life he could find: bacteriophage T7, a virus that infects the bacterium Escherichia coli. Crystal head curved legs on this virus is similar to the lander which lands on the moon and have enough bacterial media. This bacteriophage is so simple that according to some definitions of it, even the living will not name. (Like all viruses, it relies on the molecular engineering of their host cell for reproduction). Bacteriophage T7 has only 56 genes, and Andy thought that it is possible to create a model that takes into account every part of the FFA and how these parts work together: the ideal performance, which predicts the impact on the FFA, if one of these genes to remove or delete.

Andy constructed a series of mutants of the bacteriophage T7 systematically knocking out genes or changing their position in the tiny genome of T7. But mutant phages as a model for a very short time. A change that would lead to their weakening, led to the fact that their offspring tore the cells of Escherichia coli in two times faster than before. Didn’t work. Eventually, Andy realized: “If we want to simulate the natural world, we need to rewrite the natural world, so that it was simulated”. Instead of searching for the best card to change the territory. Thus was born the area of synthetic biology. Borrowing techniques from programming, Andy started “refactor” the genome of bacteriophage T7. He created the bacteriophage T7.1, life form, designed to simplify the interpretation of the human mind.

Phage T7.1 — an example of so-called sverhtermicheskoy life, which owes its existence to human design, not natural selection. Bioengineers, such as Andy, considering life in two ways: as a physical structure, on the one hand, and how information structure on the other. In theory, the perfect representation of life should intensify the invisible transition between information and matter, purpose and implementation: change a few letters DNA on your computer screen, printout of the organism in your plan. With this approach, evolution is threatening to ruin the project engineer. The conservation of biological design may require that your conceived body could not reproduce or evolve.

On the contrary, Joyce’s desire to have his molecules he was surprised, says that the ability to open evolution — “creative, omnipotent, infinite” — is the most important criterion of life. In accordance with this idea, now Joyce defines life as a genetic system that contains more bits than the number necessary to begin its work. But according to this definition, if you take two identical systems with different stories — one designed and the other developed — only the last is considered alive; rationally designed system, regardless of its complexity, is simply a “technological artifact.”

Design and evolution are not always opposed. Many projects in synthetic biology uses a mixture of rational design and directed evolution: they design media mutant cells in different variants and choose the best. Although the new view Joyce about life involves evolution, it also requires a sudden occurrence, rather than a long Darwinian development. Emergent life fits into the culture of the sudden innovation of ideas which include a magical appearance of the working buds out of your 3D printer. Design and evolution are compatible, if bioengineers will look at genetic diversity as a Treasury of design elements for future life forms.

For some synthetic biologists the way to what mystics called the life beyond life which transcends life as we know it — passes through biological engineering. Andy describes his calling in terms of a desire to contribute to life and to create new kinds of “the incredible models that will flourish and exist.” Joyce contrasts the life and technology of fundamental thermodynamic tendency towards disorder and decay. What new forms will get life? Only time will tell.

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