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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS - 'Synthia'......

(2010-07-20 14:32:09)


SCIENCE IN THE NEWS - 'Synthia' Brings New Life to Science of Genetic Engineering

新闻中的科学--‘合成体’ 为基因工程学带来新的生命



Written by Jerilyn Watson

BOB DOUGHTY: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a program in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I'm Shirley Griffith. Today we tell about the development of what scientists are calling a synthetic cell - a cell produced by people instead of by nature.


BOB DOUGHTY:这是新闻中的科学,VOA特别英语的一个节目。我是Bob Doughty。

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:我是Shirley Griffith。今天我们讲一讲科学家们所说的“合成细胞”--一个由人制造的而不是由自然“制造”的细胞。

BOB DOUGHTY: Ten years have passed since the announcement of the first version of the human genome. In two thousand, then-President Bill Clinton told the world that international and private groups had identified the genetic structure of a human being. The president praised scientists working with the Human Genome Project and Celera Genomics Corporation. He said they had organized a design that shows all the information that makes up a human life.

BOB DOUGHTY:从人类基因组第一版被宣布到现在已经过了10年了。在2000年,那时候比尔克林顿总统告诉世界国际和私人组织识别出了人类基因结构。总统赞扬了在人类基因组计划和赛莱拉基因组公司的工作人员。他说他们绘制了一个带有人类生命所有信息的图谱。

Experts welcomed the announcement as a major development toward the understanding, identification and treatment of disease. They predicted progress against genetic diseases like cystic fibrosis and Parkinson's disease.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Tony Blair, then the prime minister of Britain, joined President Clinton in Washington for the announcement. The event came after negotiations involving the international and private-laboratory scientists.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:托尼布莱尔,那时的英国首相,参加了克林顿总统在华盛顿的宣布。这个事件发生在国际和私人实验科学家谈判以后。

Francis Collins led the international group from his position at America's National Institutes of Health. J. Craig Venter led the private laboratory efforts at Celera. The two men denied they were competing. However, observers said the negotiations clearly settled the race to be first.

Three years later, the Human Genome Project announced an almost-completed human genome. Mister Venter's laboratory announced a different, completed version in two thousand seven.


BOB DOUGHTY: Today, Mister Venter is head of the J. Craig Venter Institute. He has continued his genetics work to carry out another highly publicized project. He and his research team have developed a synthetic, or manmade, cell he calls "Synthia." A recent report in Science magazine describes the development of the cell.

BOB DOUGHTY:今天,文特尔先生已经是 J奎格文特尔学会的领导人了。他所继续的基因工作是要完成一个广为宣传的项目。他和他的研究团队在研究一个合成的或者说是人选的细胞,他们把它叫做“合成体”。《科学》杂志的最近报道描述了这个细胞的进展。


Craig Venter

Craig Venter


Mister Venter says Synthia is a new species. He says it is the first cell whose parent was in a computer. He says his team changed existing life into new life because the synthetic cell can control and reproduce a living cell.


To many people, the ability of a cell to reproduce itself is the definition of life itself.



SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The goal of the Venter team's research is to create bacteria designed to solve problems in medicine and energy production. They hope that future synthetic cells can make useful bacteria for products like bio-fuels or vaccines, and to clean up polluted water.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:文特尔团队的研究目标是设计制造用于解决制药和能源生产方面的问题的细菌。他们希望将来的合成细胞可以制造出象在生产生物燃料、生产疫苗、净化污水等方面有用的细菌。

Scientists Daniel Gibson, Hamilton Smith and Mister Venter worked with more than twenty other researchers to develop Synthia. The project took fifteen years and cost forty million dollars.

The cell is made from a synthetic genome. To make that genome, the researchers replaced all the natural genetic material in a bacterial cell with a synthetic set of genes. At the announcement of the cell's creation, Mister Venter described the steps his team followed to develop Synthia.


CRAIG VENTER: "We are here today to announce the first synthetic cell -- a cell made by starting with the digital code in the computer, building the chromosome from four bottles of chemicals, assembling that chromosome in yeast, transplanting it into a recipient bacterial cell and transforming that cell into a new bacterial species."

CRAIG VENTER:“今天我们在这里宣布第一个合成细胞--这个细胞的制造之初是计算机里的一串数码,制造它的染色体是从从4个装有化学物质的瓶子里取物质,在酵母液里装配染色体,把它移植到受体细菌细胞里,把这个细胞变成一个新物种的细菌。


BOB DOUGHTY: Craig Ventner's research team used a simple natural bacterium that infects goats. It is called Mycoplasma mycoides. The team says the bacterium was changed so it cannot cause harm if it escapes. All the information in its genes is organized into more than one million letters. The letters of this code tell what qualities the bacterium contains.

BOB DOUGHTY:奎格文特尔的研究团队用的是一种感染山羊的简单的天然细菌。这种细菌叫“丝状支原体丝状亚种”。这个团队说这种细菌是改造过的如果它逃逸的话不会造成危害,所有的它的基因中的信息组成了100多万字母的文字图谱,这个代码的字母串表明了这个细菌所包含的生命特质。

The researchers placed the coded letters in a computer. Then they made small changes to the bacterium's deoxyribonucleic acid -- DNA for short. DNA makes chemicals in cells.


The researchers removed four thousand letters . Their removal stopped two genes from operating. Then the team replaced ten genes with four sequences, or four sets, of organized DNA. The researchers call the four sets "watermark" sequences. Each watermark has more than one thousand letters. The coded letters contain people's names, famous sayings and a website to help identify the cell.


CRAIG VENTER: "And we also built in a website address so that if somebody decodes the code within the code, they can send an e-mail to that address. So it's clearly distinguishable from any other species."


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Mister Venter says his team made each watermark sequence with the contents of four different bottles of chemicals. The chemicals changed the DNA of each watermark. The DNA particles were designed so pieces next to each other contained eighty letters that overlapped, with one placed over the other. That design provided the pieces with special places to link together.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:奎文特尔说他的团队用四个放着不同的化学物质的瓶子中的化学物质制造了每个水印序列。这些化学物质替换了每个水印中的DNA(?把这些化学物质替换入每个水印里的DNA字母序列中?)。这些DNA的设计是这样的相临的不同的片段之间有80个字母的重叠,一个放置的另一个之上。这样的设计使得片段与片段之间有一个特殊的区相连接。

The researchers added the changed DNA to yeast -- a simple, single-cell organism. Inside the yeast cell, the yeast machinery recognized that the two DNA pieces had the same order. The yeast machinery put them together at this place of overlap.


The genome was created in three steps. When finished, the cell contained more than one million letters. Its creators said it is the longest chemically designed DNA structure ever produced in a laboratory.


BOB DOUGHTY: The researchers placed the genome into a receiving cell of a bacterium called Mycoplasma capricolum. They made the genome active in the bacteria. But first, Mister Venter said, they had to de-activate a gene in the receiving cell that would have killed the synthetic genome.

BOB DOUGHTY:研究人员把这个基因组放在了一种叫“丝状支原体丝状亚种”的受体细胞内。他们把这个基因组在细菌内激活。但是首先,文特尔先生说,他们不得不去掉受体细胞中的一个基因的活性以免它杀掉合成体。

In late March, the synthetic genome started to produce a new form of cells.



SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: To some scientists, the work of Craig Venter's research offers hopeful possibilities. For example, Mister Venter is working to design cells that can make it easier to capture carbon dioxide. His team is also attempting to produce new food oils and make synthetic parts of every known influenza virus. The process may help build new vaccines much faster than is done now.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:对一些科学家来说,奎格文特尔的研究提供了一种有希望的可能。举个例子来说,文特尔先生正在设计一种让它易于捕捉二氧化碳的细胞。他的团队也试图制造新的食用油和为所有的已知的流感病毒制造合成部分。这个过程将帮助在制造新的疫苗方面提供大大地快于现在的方法。

However, some people see other, far less pleasant possibilities for the new technology. The environmental activist group Friends of the Earth says it is dangerous. The group says it could be hard to stop experimental organisms from entering the natural environment.


It says the synthetic cells might take control of living things in nature. Friends of the Earth has called for suspending further research until rules are made for the technology.


BOB DOUGHTY: University of Pennsylvania professor Arthur Caplan is bioethicist -- an expert in ethical and moral issues of biological medicine and technology. He says the new cell is one of the most important scientific gains ever made. Professor Caplan also believes that concerns about the possible escape of manufactured cells into the atmosphere are real.

BOB DOUGHTY:宾夕法尼亚大学的教授Arthur Caplan 是一位生命伦理学家--也就是对生物制药和生物工程引起的伦理和道德问题的专家。他说这个新的细胞是迄今做出的最重要的科学成就。 Caplan 教授也认为应该关注人造细胞真的会逃逸到大气中去。

Mark Bedau of Reed College in Oregon says Mister Venter's work marks an important step over traditional genetic engineering of individual genes. But Professor Bedau says that nobody can be sure about the results of making new forms of life. He says science must expect results that are unexpected and unmeant.

俄勒冈里德学院的Mark Bedau说文特尔先生的工作相对传统的针对单个基因的基因工程迈出了具有标志性的重要的一步。但是Bedau教授说没有人对制造新型生命的后果打保票。他说科学应该预料到那些预想不到的或无意的结果。

President Obama has ordered a report about the possible risks of the technology.


Also, some people may find that manufactured cells threaten their belief that only God should create life. But Nobel Prize-winning scientist David Baltimore says the team created only a representation of real life. Mister Baltimore is a former president of the California Institute of Technology.

有些人也许发现人造细胞威胁了他们的只有上帝才能创造生命的信仰。但是诺贝尔奖获得者 David Baltimore 说这个团队只是创造了一个象征性的生命。 Baltimore 先生是加利福尼亚理工大学的前校长。

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Other scientists praise the Venter team's amazingly big piece of DNA. Still others question whether the cell and those to follow can really help improve health and make biofuels.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:其他的一些科学家赞扬文特尔团队的令人惊奇的大片段的DNA。还有一些怀疑这个细胞和它的后继工作会不会真的帮助提升人类的健康和制造出生物燃料。

Divided opinions of his work are not new to Craig Venter. Over the years, he has sometimes earned enemies by expressing opinions that offend other scientists.


Mister Venter will be sixty-four years old in October. At that age, many people are retired. But he is hard at work. He and his team currently are trying to make algae that can change carbon dioxide back into fossil fuel.



BOB DOUGHTY: This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was Mario Ritter. I'm Bob Doughty.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.



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