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The New Yeast

New York University's Jef Boeke and his colleagues are working on re-writing the yeast genome, the Associated Press reports.

Boeke and his colleagues are re-working the yeast genome to not only get a better grasp of the structure and function of a genome, but also to be able to begin to modify it to be better able to produce pharmaceuticals or biofuels, according to the AP.

The AP adds that Boeke and his colleagues are examining the known yeast genome to find spots to be re-jiggered. Those newly designed regions are then sent off to a DNA synthesis company to be built and are returned to the lab to be added back in the new yeast genome. So far, the AP says Boeke's group has re-written about a third of the yeast genome and hopes to finish it before the end of the year.

Boeke tells the AP that learning to make a genome from scratch means "you really can construct something that's completely new."

But, as the AP points out, such work also brings up ethical questions. Laurie Zoloth from Northwestern University tells the AP that she worries about the creation of organisms whose functions aren't fully understood. "It is not only a science project," she adds. "It is an ethical and moral and theological proposal of significant proportions." 

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