Scientists have found the key to artificial life, after creating yeast from manmade DNA.
The synthetic yeast could be used to create painkillers, biofuel, bread better able to withstand high temperatures and cheaper beer for the brewing industry.
More importantly, yeast shares a quarter of its genes with humans, so may allow biologists to build whole sections of DNA to prevent devastating diseases like cystic fibrosis.
An international team of scientists successfully replaced almost a third of the genetic material in baker’s yeast, after creating five new synthetic chromosomes with DNA made from chemicals in the laboratory.
The team, including researchers from Imperial College in London, yesterday announced they plan to create entirely manmade yeast by the end of the year.
The breakthrough will reignite the debate over GM food, as artificial yeast could in future be used to make bread more nutritious.
It also raises fears over bioterrorism, as the same DNA-swapping methods could be harnessed to create extra deadly viruses.
However the researchers involved say it is a major milestone in the race to create the first fully artificial complex living organism.
They not only inserted new DNA into yeast but removed that which was unnecessary, showing scientists can speed up evolution by taking the building blocks of life and rearranging them.