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Synthetic Life Created: The First “Micro-Avatar”

For the first time in history, a living organism has been manufactured with the help of a computer-generated genome. Dr. Jon LaPook reports on the groundbreaking discovery’s widespread implications.

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The First Micro-Avatar

Craig Venter and his team of scientists recently announced that they had created the first “synthetic cell” — a bacterium controlled by genetic material that they had designed on a computer and concocted from four bottles of chemicals. This is the closest thing to creating life that has happened outside of a science-fiction movie. If it doesn’t fire your imagination, then you should fire your imagination.

Basically, what Venter et al did was remove the “brain” (the genetic material that runs the cell) from one species of bacteria (Mycoplasma capricolum) and inserted a new brain — one synthetically created based very closely on the known genetic makeup of a second species of bacteria (Mycoplasma mycoides). The new organism then divided just as a normal cell would and followed the instructions of the new brain. Think micro-Avatar, except that the Avatar’s body morphs into one designed by its new brain. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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