Viral Engineering.

Essay by NevJacyHigh School, 12th gradeA+, May 2003

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On July 11, 2002 in the laboratories of the State University of New York the first synthetic virus was created. This virus is relatively small in the genetic sense of the word (only containing a few thousand base pairs) and is known today as the polio virus. Because of its minuscule genetic makeup this virus was the most likely candidate for this type of experimentation. After the complete synthetic virus was created the researchers injected it into mice and amazingly is carried out its function like a normal polio virus. Eureka the first synthetic virus is born!

To create the polio virus the researchers downloaded the genetic makeup of the polio virus off of an internet server. Now the difference between polio and most other organisms is that its genetic makeup is composed of RNA as opposed to DNA. Since RNA can't be synthetically created in a lab the researchers needed to translate the RNA base sequence into DNA (which can be synthetically made in a lab).

With this DNA product the scientists added transcriptase to the mix along with the RNA bases and the lo and behold the RNA was formed. The scientists then created a "juice" for the RNA to create a virus within. This "juice" consisted of shredded up human cells. From this "juice" was extracted the nucleus, mitochondria and other cell structures not needed for viral reproduction.

Into this "juice" went the RNA and out of this "juice" came the polio virus. The final product functioned under the microscope and in mice just like the strain found in nature. The leader of the research team, Dr. Wimmer, stated: "The reason we did it was to prove that it can be done, and it now is a reality." So you might be saying to yourself: "So what?"...