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Chapter 54 : Constructing a Synthetic Mycoplasma
I would like to raise an exciting issue that has become very hot recently and has been of great interest to me for a long time: the possibility of synthesizing a living cell from its components. My story starts in 1964. I spent then my first sabbatical with Prof. Harold Morowitz at Yale University. Let me first remind you that these were the early sixties, times of revolutionary ideas. It was the time of planning the trip to the moon. We had entertained the idea, promoted by Morowitz, to synthesize a living cell from its components and turn this project into an American National Goal instead of going to the moon. We started by reconstituting the mycoplasma membrane from its solubilized components. Despite early promising results and a rather provocative paper (1.usa.gov/1MhD04c) we published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on mycoplasma membrane reconstitution, we failed to progress in this direction. Clearly, we were much ahead of the times.