ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Artificial Life is Close to Becoming a Reality - What does this Mean?

Updated on July 7, 2016
janderson99 profile image

Dr. John applies his scientific (PhD) research skills & 30 years experience as an inventor & futurist to review technology, apps, software.

How an unspectacular common brown seaweed may hold the key to understanding how life evolved here on Planet Water. As reported in a recent issue of Nature more than 100 scientists and technicians in various labs, working for more than 5 years, have successfully decoded the entire genome of Ectocarpus siliculosus, a common marine seaweed. They have analyzed more than 210 million base pairs and allocated these to about 16,000 genes.

One of the aims of the project was to learn more about how multicellular photosynthesising plants evolved. During the evolution of life on Planet Water, it is thought that unicellular organisms may have evolved along 5 main lines or pathways, but the relationship between the pathways and the evolutionary tree structure is not known. The clues to these relationships and how evolution occurred is thought to lie in their genomes. These forms are: animals, fungi, red algae, brown algae and plants. Evolutionary scientists have been working on decoding an entire genome from a representative of each of these types of life as the basis for comparing their genetic information in the genome sequences and common genes. This aim has now been realised for the genome of the brown algal. The team had already decode the genome of a red algal.

Cell membrane showing its structure and function
Cell membrane showing its structure and function | Source
The key to artificial cells is the membranes which separate the organic molecules and metabolism from external influences.
The key to artificial cells is the membranes which separate the organic molecules and metabolism from external influences. | Source

The Genome Factory

The genome sequencing work for the brown algae is also a key milestone in understanding how photosynthesis evolved. It is now known that oxygen-producing photosynthesis was developed about 3.8 billion years ago, by cyanobacteria (otherwise known as ‘blue-green algae). Green and red algae are thought to have developed by engulfing living cyanobacteria into their cells, which became the chloroplasts. In a similar way the mitochondria in cells (the energy powerhouse of cells) is also thought to be derived from a bacteria. Both chloroplasts and mitchondria have their own genetic material in the form of RNA which is more complex than that of their presumed cyanobacteria and bacteria precursors. Brown algae were thought to have evolved from the fusion of colourless cells which lacked photosynthetic material, with a unicellular red alga. But from genome comparisons it now appears that brown algae arose from the fusion of a red alga with a green alga.

In other news an artificial genome of the bacteria Mycoplasma mycoides created in the laboratory by assembling the bases in the known sequence into the cellular housing of the Mycoplasma capricolum bacterium after its genome was removed.The cell survived and successfully regenerated itself into a cell line. The team involved in the work also inserted various messages into the genome which were the names of the researches and their institute (the ultimate biological graffiti):

That it worked was remarkable as the cell's original ribosomes were able to read the genome to build new amino acid sequences into new proteins to maintain the cell. Complex molecular processes were also required to maintain the 'foreign' DNA in working order and to duplicate that DNA when it was time to divide. This opens up all sorts of possibilities with creating artificial variants of the genome with genes for all sorts of new things. It sounds dangerous because it may lead inadvertently produce a damaging rogue organism or pathogen. This fear is offset by the realisation that genetic mutations are occurring all the time which is the stuff of evolution and natural selection. However this technology can potentially allow much larger and faster changes with much larger impacts and consequences than simple mutations. It is a quantum leap which could be used for good or evil and with a high risk for mistakes with disastrous consequences - it is genetic engineering potentially using created rather than natural building blocks.

Some of the other major parts of the cell have been artificially created recently. Last year, a team at Harvard Medical School reported that they had created an artificial ribosome. Dr. Rasmussen in Denmark is trying to design a very simple bare-bone version of an artificial cell. The crucial minimal components for a functioning cell are a power system that uses free energy from the environment to meet its energy demands, that is some form of metabolism. It must also have a cell membrane to enclose it and isolates it from its surroundings. Finally it must have the genetic information needs to reproduce itself that is a genome. The research continues and appears to be a long way from success.

The focus for the genetic material for these artificial prototypes is RNA not DNA. Many believe that the RNA in ribosomes, chloropasts and mitochondria may provide clues to how cells evolved and the structure of the first primitive forms the following reasons. Ribosomes are the protein factories of the cell, translates the genetic code stored in DNA and RNA into the language of proteins. The core material of the ribosome itself consists RNA, enclosed by proteins that provide the framework and structure to hold the RNA in place. A primitive life form may have consisted of a ribosome protein factory that got its information from its own RNA or other related ribosome forms.

It remains to be seen what man will do with artificial life forms

© 2010 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • janderson99 profile imageAUTHOR

    Dr. John Anderson 

    6 years ago from Australia on Planet Water

    Its a great story

  • IDScience profile image


    6 years ago

    There seems to be a problem here. How can intelligent design not be science, when science practices intelligent design?. A bit ironic

    It appears science wants us to pay attention to what they say and not what they do

  • PDXBuys profile image


    7 years ago from Oregon

    How did the researchers encode their names in the genome?


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)