Scientists have successfully forced a bacterium to switch species with another closely related species by replacing one genome with the other. This "transplantation" technique, spearheaded by J. Craig Venter and described in this week's Science, could insert synthetic genomes into cells to help create synthetic organisms, although Venter cautioned that the step is a long ways away. Venter and colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., replaced the genome of Mycoplasma capricolum with that of a closely related bacterium, Mycoplasma mycoides. They used mycoplasma because this genus has a relatively small genome (roughly 1 million base pairs) and because it lacks cell walls, making it easier to insert bulky DNA molecules. Venter and his team suspended M. mycoides cells in agarose to protect the soon-to-be-naked donor DNA from jostling and breakage, and incubated it with enzymes to digest the cells' other components. After isolating...

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