Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., say they've joined together chemically synthesized fragments of DNA to assemble the synthetic genome of the world's smallest free-living bacterium. Previously, only viral genomes had been synthesized in the lab, but synthesizing the genome of __Mycoplasma genitalium__, a bacterium that inhabits the genitals and respiratory tracts of primates, represents the first bacterial genome and the largest molecule of defined structure ever made by humans. The project moved the linkurl:Venter group; a step closer to their ultimate goal of creating the world's first linkurl:synthetic organism,; which then might be used to manufacture biofuels and other compounds. Harvard geneticist linkurl:George Church,; who was not involved with the study, told __The Scientist__ that it was "an important milestone rather than a breakthrough." The findings, which appear today (Jan 24) in the online version of __Science__, follow a linkurl:paper; published by the Venter Institute's...

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