Creating life gets harder, according to a report in BBC News, 3 April 2006. In recent years biologists have speculated what would be the minimal number of genes needed to make a functioning artificial cell, and some have tried to estimate it by seeing whether cells could survive after having one of their genes knocked out. However, this method only studies one chemical process at a time and many living cells have backup systems that enable them to make the many other chemicals they also need to survive.

Lawrence Hurst of the University of Bath, UK, and colleagues, have studied two bacteria and developed a mathematical model that works out what genes they would need to survive in their normal environments. They then used the model to predict what would be the smallest number of metabolic processes they would need to live, assuming they had all the right nutrients available. Their results suggested that single gene knock-out studies underestimated the minimal number of genes by about 50%. Hurst commented: “The surprise was the metabolism got to be really rather larger than people had suggested the smallest metabolism could be.” Hurst’s results may also be an underestimate as, according to Dusko Ehrlich, of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in France, “The paper deals only with biochemical reactions, not DNA synthesis, protein synthesis, or replication. They deal with precursors but don’t deal with many macromolecules. Many essential genes are required for synthesis of macromolecules.”


Editorial comment: When biologists are able to work out what genes are essential for life, and manage to put them together with the right nutrients and make a living cell, they will have proven that it takes intelligence and creativity to make life, not chance naturalistic or random processes. Therefore, scientists doing these gene studies and those who read about them are truly without excuse for not acknowledging that the genes they are merely copying and reassembling, were made by a much greater Creator. (Ref. genetics, genome, biochemistry)

Evidence News 31st May 2006