How It Works

Is it possible to make a real-life Frankenstein?

In a sense, yes, it is, though the ‘creature’ is a bit tamer than Frankenstein’s monster from the famous novel. In 2010, a team of scientists led by biologist Craig Venter used a computer to replicate the genetic code of a simple bacterium – Mycoplasma genitalium – adding a few small tweaks as a watermark signature. Then they implanted the man- made genome into an empty cell of another bacterium species – Mycoplasma mycoides. The resulting new bacterium, nicknamed Synthia, successfully replicated itself, making it, arguably, alive. They didn’t make it ‘from scratch’, but the result was an original man-made life form. In the near future, man-made creatures might yield new food, fuel, medicine and pollution remedies, but it remains a very controversial field.

Answered by Tom Harris