Scientists have found a way to rapidly synthesize the entire genome of a virus. To construct the sequence, which consists of 5,386 DNA building blocks, or base pairs, strung into a single chromosome, J. Craig Venter of the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives in Rockville, Md., and his colleagues first ordered 259 smaller segments of the genome from a commercial supplier.
Using a cocktail of enzymes and extra DNA pieces, the scientists bound the snippets together and filled in gaps. This created a full-length, synthetic version of the chromosome for a virus known as bacteriophage phiX174, which is harmless to people.
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