The first virtual organism has been created by a computer, and features a microbe that causes sexually transmitted infections.
Mycoplasma genitalium has been reconstructed virtually using a computer, and has been possible because it is so tiny; it has only 525 genes. Humans in comparison have about 20,500 genes.
The successful creation now opens the door for more complicated virtual organisms to be created, which in turn could advance various related research projects and allow bioengineers to use computers to design organisms, according to lead researcher Markus Covert, who is a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University.
The advancement means that virtual organisms could be used so researchers can test out ideas and compare them to results found in real life living organisms. The mysteries surrounding many complex biological phenomena could eventually be solved, such as cancer.
Answering why cancer has not yet been cured Covert has said, according to LiveScience, "The answer is simply cancer is not a one-gene phenomenon, it's thousands of genes interacting together, and other factors interacting in complicated ways. The fact is, we won't be able to understand how those things interact together unless we use a rational, computer-based approach."
The virtual creation was possible after researchers combed more than 900 sources of information about the single-celled M. genitalium. A model of the organism's genetic structure was created and models for each of its 28 cellular processes were made. All these models were then combined together to simulate the entire cell.
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