• Question: could you create a new disease ?

    Asked by kingjulian to Bethany, Hannah, Keith, Peter, Ramya on 27 Jun 2014.
    • Photo: Peter Elliott

      Peter Elliott answered on 27 Jun 2014:

      In theory yes. Although I think we are a little way off creating a whole new disease (although Craig Venter has created his own life from scratch). Much more likely we could cross two different types of pathogens to create a new type.

      Ethically however, this is not the sort of thing that scientists do as if by some chance a new disease got out it could possibly destroy humanity as it would be a disease that no one would likely show any immunity to.

    • Photo: Bethany Dearlove

      Bethany Dearlove answered on 27 Jun 2014:

      As Peter says, in theory yes can can create a new disease. In 2010, Craig Venter and his team succeeded in making a synthetic parasite. You can watch a video where he describes it here: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/may/20/craig-venter-synthetic-life-form. However, that was relatively ‘simple’ to construct. Earlier this year a team composed mainly of undergraduate students made the first synthetic yeast chromosome, which is a lot more complicated. There’s a good article about the effort involved here: http://www.nature.com/news/first-synthetic-yeast-chromosome-revealed-1.14941.