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Scientists Build A Live, No-Frills Cell That Could Have A Big Future
National Public Radio

Scientists announced Thursday that they have built a single-celled organism that has just 473 genes — likely close to the minimum number of genes necessary to sustain its life. The development, they say, could eventually lead to new manufacturing methods.

Around 1995, a few top geneticists set out on a quest: to make an organism that had only the genes that were absolutely essential for its survival. A zero-frills life.

It was a heady time.

“That was the first time anybody had seen the complete genome of anything,” says J. Craig Venter, a genome scientist and founder and CEO of the J. Craig Venter Institute. Back then, he and his colleagues had just sequenced the complete genomes of two types of bacteria and were shocked to see how different they were from each other, in terms of their DNA.

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