In a step toward creating artificial microbes, scientists have managed to replace the entire genome of one kind of bacterium with the DNA of a related species. After the transplant, the recipient took on all the traits of the donor, effectively transforming into the donor's species.
The researchers say they hope to use this new technique to swap a bacterium's DNA for an artificial genome that they will assemble from scratch, thus creating the first synthetic life form. As well as helping scientists explore fundamental cell biology, such custom-made microbes could eventually be designed to produce biofuels and medicines efficiently, says study coauthor John I. Glass of the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md.