Humans will be able to recreate alien life forms and ‘print out’ organisms using the biological equivalent of a 3D printer in the future, a DNA pioneer has predicted.
Dr Craig Venter, who helped map the human genome, created the world’s first synthetic lifeform, using chemicals and inserting DNA into the cell of a bacteria.
He believes scientists will soon be to do the same, designing basic organisms to include features useful in farming or medicine, as well as sending robots into space to read the sequence of alien life forms and replicate them back on Earth.
Writing in his latest book, Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, he says: “In years to come it will be increasingly possible to create a wide variety of [synthetic] cells from computer-designed software.
The creation of cells from scratch will open up extraordinary possibilities.”
The scientist also predicts in the future machines will be able to analyse the make up of genomes and transmit this through the internet or even space, creating more possibilities in the search for alien life, the Sunday Times reported.
He wrote: “The day is not far off when we will be able to send a robotically controlled genome sequencing unit to other planets to read the DNA sequence of any alien microbe life that may be there. If we can . . . beam them back to Earth we should be able to reconstruct their genomes.
“The synthetic version of a Martian genome could then be used to recreate Martian life on Earth.”
In 2010 Dr Venter and his team made a new chromosome from artificial DNA in a test tube, transferring it to an empty cell where it multiplied – the definition of being alive.
The multi-millionaire pioneer in genetics compared his work with making a computer at the time, referring to the artificial DNA as the software.