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  • WHAT IF WE TOLD YOU THAT IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE,

  • YOU COULD LOG ONTO YOUR COMPUTER AND

  • PROGRAM LIVING CELLS LIKE SOFTWARE?

  • EVER SINCE SCIENTISTS UNLOCKED THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF BIOLOGYDNA

  • WEVE MADE MASSIVE STRIDES IN UNDERSTANDING THEBASE CODE

  • THAT UNDERLIES ALL LIVING THINGS.

  • AND OVER THE PAST FEW DECADES, WEVE BECOME SO OBSESSED WITH THIS CODE

  • THAT SCIENTISTS ARE EXPLORING HOW TO EDIT GENOMES

  • AND EVEN CREATE BRAND NEW ONES

  • THAT NEVER EXISTED BEFORE.

  • SO, HOW CLOSE ARE WE

  • TO HARNESSING SYNTHETIC LIFE?

  • - Life is a technology.

  • It's a technology we didn't create.

  • BUT WHAT IF WE COULD LEARN TO HARNESS IT?

  • THAT’S THE PRINCIPLE BEHINDSYNTHETIC BIOLOGY,” THE EMERGING STUDY

  • OF BUILDING LIVING SYSTEMS.

  • YOU MIGHT BE IMAGINING ARMIES OF FRANKENSTEIN CREATURES...

  • AND WELL GET TO THAT

  • BUT WHAT WE MEAN FOR THE TIME BEING IS CREATING ANIMAL PRODUCTS,

  • INDIVIDUALIZED MEDICAL THERAPIES,

  • AND EVEN TRANSPLANTABLE ORGANS….

  • ALL STARTING WITH SYNTHETIC DNA AND CELLS IN A LAB.

  • - I look at them as 3D printers, but the most powerful and successful 3D printers that exist

  • today, because they can print thousands and thousands of different materials all at once,

  • and they can make more of themselves.

  • And it comes with a programming language: DNA.

  • - Pulling the principles of engineering design, and then the real fundamentals of molecular

  • biology together is really powerful, because it makes you think of biology as a design

  • medium, if you like,   using genetic material as the building blocks.

  • AND WHEN IT COMES TO SYNTHESIZING LIFE, THERE ARE TWO MAIN SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT.

  • One is actually trying to build artificial cells.

  • Actually starting from the bottom-up, and saying how do I build a living cell

  • in a synthetic way?

  • Either using synthetic, chemical components, or using natural, biological components, how do I build

  • a cell, basically, from first principles, from scratch, bottom-up?

  • IN 2010, CRAIG VENTER’S RESEARCH TEAM MADE HISTORY WITH THIS APPROACH WHEN THEY CREATED

  • THE WORLD’S FIRSTSYNTHETIC ORGANISM,’ A BACTERIUM MADE ENTIRELY OF SYNTHETIC DNA.

  • - And most recently, out of the UK, Jason Chen and his team synthesized the E. coli genome.

  • That's pretty remarkable.

  • That's a four million base pair genome.

  • - We now can specify, we want a genetic sequence, A, T, G, C, T, T, T, T, T, A, whatever.

  • We can send that information across the web to a company, and then they will put it into

  • their production pipeline, and then we will get sent back a chemical synthesized piece

  • of DNA.

  • - It's only going to get faster, and cheaper, and easier from here.

  • BUT IT’S STILL NOT AS FAST AND CHEAP AS EDITING AN EXISTING GENOME TO SYNTHESIZE NEW LIFE.

  • AND TO BE HONEST, STARTING FROM SCRATCH MIGHT NOT BE WORTH IT.

  • - A purist would say you have to make all the cellular components from atoms, okay.

  • No cheating, no using bits of life.

  • You can make fully synthetic DNA chemically, but for most purposes it's not any more useful

  • than something that's semi-synthetic.

  • - Now, the other way is actually taking existing cells, but re-engineering them,

  • to have particular functionality

  • to the extent of completely re-synthesizing the whole genome,

  • and redesigning it

  • Putting it back into the cell, which means it's still a species, but it's got a human-designed

  • genome in it.

  • Building that code to perform a function, or to do a design, or to make something.

  • AND THAT’S JUST WHAT WERE BEGINNING TO EXPLORE.

  • WITH GENETIC ENGINEERING TOOLS BECOMING MORE ACCESSIBLE THAN EVER BEFORE,

  • RESEARCHERS WANT TO USE SYNTHESIZED GENOMES

  • TO ENHANCE HUMAN HEALTH.

  • For simple things like detecting infections, or detecting environmental pollutants, we

  • can now engineer bacterial cells that will detect arsenic or fluorine or any of these

  • toxic chemicals, and will change color like a pH strip.

  • THESE BACTERIA COULD PROTECT US FROM CONSUMING TOXINS IN

  • CONTAMINATED DRINKING WATER, FOR EXAMPLE.

  • AND ANDREW AND HIS TEAM AT HUMANE GENOMICS ARE WORKING TO DEVELOP A LIBRARY OF SYNTHETIC

  • VIRUSES THAT COULD LEAD TO CUSTOMIZED CANCER THERAPIES.

  • The virus is like a USB stick.

  • You know it's going to dock with the particular cancer cell, and it's going to load a program

  • into that cell.

  • Now we get to write that program to make it even more specific for the cancer cell.

  • We're working with dogs, and dog cancers, to gain experience.

  • The cancer that we're working with first, it's a bone cancer.

  • So we put in little switches into the viral genome, so it's only active in a bone cancer

  • and you can measure its killing activity relative to normal cells.

  • Like the first attempt at anything, it's not going to cure cancer, but we demonstrated

  • that we could go from a file on a computer to a virus particle that could infect a cancer

  • cell, and we did it in a relatively short period of time for a relatively low cost.

  • OTHER RESEARCHERS HOPE TO TAKE ON THE FASHION INDUSTRY WITH LAB-MADE VERSIONS OF TRADITIONAL

  • BIOLOGICAL MATERIALS LIKE LEATHER, OR SILK.

  • BUT PERHAPS THE MOST AMBITIOUS PLAN INVOLVESBIOREMEDIATION”––PREVENTING OR COUNTERBALANCING

  • ECOLOGICAL DAMAGE  USING MICROORGANISMS.

  • The concept is you have organisms that are engineered that would go out and either start

  • degrading plastics, start using plastic as an energy source, possibly start using toxic

  • components, cleaning up environments, using natural microbial systems.

  • OKAY, OKAY, WE KNOW WHAT YOURE THINKING––WHAT ABOUT SYNTHETIC HUMANS?!

  • ENTER HUMAN-GENOME PROJECT-WRITE, OR JUST, GENOME-PROJECT WRITE.

  • A SEQUEL TOTHE HUMAN GENOME PROJECT,’ GP-WRITE IS BRINGING TOGETHER OVER ONE HUNDRED

  • INSTITUTIONS WORLDWIDE IN ONE COMMUNAL QUEST: TO SYNTHESIZE THE HUMAN GENOME.

  • You want a human cell which has new properties.

  • You want to make something that has properties like virus resistance or senescence, aging

  • resistance.

  • You could do it with organic chemistry, or you could do it with biochemistry, or you

  • could do it by editing of living cells.

  • You could build human parts, meaning transplantable human parts, and from that you could build

  • large portions of a human being.

  • But right now I think we're in a time where that's on hold, in part for lack of strong

  • arguments for why you would want to do it.

  • INSTEAD, THESE RESEARCHERS ARE LOOKING TO UNDERSTAND THE GENETIC SYMPHONY THAT MAKES

  • HUMANS TICK, BY DEMYSTIFYING OUR CELLSINSTRUCTION SETS.

  • The simplest microbe in the world, which has got the smallest number of instruction sets,

  • we don't even know what 40% of those instructions do.

  • So our knowledge base is still quite limited.

  • It's like redesigning an airplane with components and half of the components you don't know

  • how they function.

  • That's where we're at.

  • AND IF YOU THINK TINKERING WITH GENOMES IS A BAD IDEA WHEN WE KNOW SO LITTLE ABOUT THEM,

  • YOURE NOT ALONE.

  • I MEAN, WHAT IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG?

  • SHOULD I LIVE IN FEAR OF EVIL SYNTHETIC HUMANOIDS TAKING OVER THE WORLD?

  • I think fear and concern and dystopic narratives is a good thing.

  • I think it's far better to have too much discussion of how things can go wrong than having too

  • little.

  • We've been using living organisms to produce and manufacture things for thousands of years.

  • We've been using yeast to make bread, alcohol.

  • What we're doing now is much more systematic.

  • It just opens up all the possibilities.

  • We have to frame it as the exploration of inner space.

  • Instead of going up into the stars, we're going down into the cells, and learning how

  • to get there, and how to explore, and how to manipulate.

  • It's as important as going out to the stars, because if we get to Mars and we don't have

  • a way to grow food and to keep ourselves healthy, we're not going to survive there for very

  • long.

  • We just have to start opening the doors and saying, "Come on in.

  • Take a look.

  • Don't be afraid.

  • Let's all learn and grow, and use this incredible technology for good."

  • SO IF DNA IS THE NEXT HTML, HOW CLOSE ARE WE TO HARNESSING SYNTHETIC LIFE?

  • This is a very fast-moving field.

  • I think in 10 years time, 15 years time, we will know enough about microbial genetic engineering

  • to be building microbes that could be potentially quite novel.

  • We went from 2015 being able to edit two genes to 2017 doing 25 genes in the germline to

  • now we can do 26,000 which is actually relatively easy in the era of exponentially improving

  • technology.

  • I think we could have mammalian systems, including human, that are multi virus-resistant within

  • I'm guessing two to six years.

  • All you have to do is be able to write a new genome, that nature hasn't created, and   by

  • that definition, I'd say were already there.

  • We're quite far away from even thinking about a human.

  • As the technology increases, there will be more interventions into multicellular organisms,

  • and we need to be mindful of what they are, and have good reasons for why we're doing

  • it.

WHAT IF WE TOLD YOU THAT IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE,

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B2 中上級

合成生命の利用は、どの程度まで近づいているのでしょうか? (How Close Are We to Harnessing Synthetic Life?)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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