RealNews

A DNA Success Raises Bioterror Concern

Researchers have made an unexpectedly sudden advance in synthesizing long molecules of DNA, bringing them closer to the goal of redesigning genes and programming cells to make pharmaceuticals. But the success also puts within reach the manufacture of small genomes, such as those of viruses and perhaps certain bacteria. Some biologists fear that the technique might be used to make the genome of the smallpox virus, one of the few pathogens that cannot easily be collected from the wild. The advance, described in the Jan. 6 issue of the journal Nature by Dr. George M. Church of the Harvard Medical School and Dr. Xiaolian Gao of the University of Houston, involves the use of a new technique to synthesize a DNA molecule 14,500 chemical units in length. The molecule contained a string of 21 genes used by a harmless laboratory bacterium. Full Story

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