According to one prominent scientist, duplicating alien life on Earth might be as easy as hitting “print” on a computer keyboard. Dr. Craig Venter, an American biologist known for his work on the human genome and synthetic life forms, says it won’t be long before scientists are using the biological equivalent of a 3D printer to replicate alien DNA – assuming we ever come across it.
The Sunday Times of London reports that in his most recent book, “Life at the Speed of light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life,” Venter argues that scientists could design rudimentary life forms based on alien organisms by mining Martian DNA (if any such thing exixts) for replication. He says scientists could deploy a robotically controlled genome sequencing unit into space to collect genetic material from alien planets and then beam their DNA information back to Earth.
“In years to come, it will be increasingly possible to create a wide variety of cells from computer-designed software,” Venter wrote, according to Red Orbit. “The synthetic version of a Martian genome could then be used to recreate Martian life on Earth.”
In 2010, scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute in created the first self-replicating synthetic organism. They did so by inserting 1 million base pairs of artificial genetic material into the cells of Mycoplasma capricolum, a type of bacteria that primarily infects goats. Amazingly, the cells reproduced naturally, proving that it’s possible to design and replicate genomes.
“When we look at life forms, we see fixed entities,” Venter, president of the institute, said during a 2010 podcast. “But this shows in fact how dynamic they are. They change from second to second. And that life is basically the result of an information process. Our genetic code is our software.”
Biological 3D printing could have other applications besides creating an army of little green men here on Earth. For one, scientists could use synthetic cells to create biofuels, design basic organisms to use in farming and medicine, or even combat global warming.
Philip Ross joined IBTimes in March 2013. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from New York University and a B.A. in International Development Studies from the University of...