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15 Billion Dollar Embryo (Hypothetical)

phyllobates's picture

 My friends, right off the bat I can tell you that a human is worth more than 57 cents. The amount it costs to purchase one strand of DNA, only 20 nucleotides long, totals around 8 dollars. Imagine then, how much it would cost to synthesize a strand of DNA encoding an entire protein or genome. If 20/8 = 2.5 dollars per nucleotide, and with about 3 billion base pairs (6 billion nucleotides) in the human genome, then hypothetically speaking, a zygote should cost roughly 15 billion dollars to synthesize from scratch. Yet, even this amount of money would not begin to cover the cost of creating just small child (yes our parent’s got a great bargain). As we discussed in class, with regards to reductionism, it is really the interaction between individual parts that is important. While this issue is partly solved by receiving the strands of DNA in a specified order, we could not just throw these correctly synthesized chromosomes together and expect a human to emerge. While I am no expert, it seems even in the artificial cloning of organisms DNA must be transferred into an already existing egg. I can’t even image the complexities one would face when trying to create a living organism from such simple molecules.   Our discussion about the cost of life, reductionism, and the importance of interaction really got me thinking about how one would create a living thing, and what a living thing is. How could we engineer a cell to perform ‘algorithms’ we have found for processes like DNA replication or cell division?   What would it take to bring properly synthesized subunits to life? Is this even possible?


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