Sean Carroll in Preposterous Universe:
Natural selection has done a pretty good job at creating a wide variety of living species, but we humans can’t help but wonder whether we could do better. Using existing genomes as a starting point, biologists are getting increasingly skilled at designing organisms of our own imagination. But to do that, we need a better understanding of what different genes in our DNA actually do. Elizabeth Strychalski and collaborators recently announced the construction of a synthetic microbial organism that self-reproduces just like a normal unicellular creature. This work will help us understand the roles of genes in reproduction, one step on the road to making DNA molecules and artificial cells that will perform a variety of medical and biological tasks.