Researchers at the J Craig Venter Institute recently unveiled their first self-replicating synthetic bacteria (M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0) whose DNA was ‘programmed’ base pair by base pair. To verify that they had synthesized a new organism and not assembled the DNA from another natural bacteria, scientists encoded a series of ‘watermarks’ into the genes of M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0. There are four of these hidden messages: an explanation of the coding system used, a URL address for those who crack the code to go visit, a list of 46 authors and contributors, and a series of famous quotes. The presence of these watermarks verifies that M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 truly is synthetic and demonstrates the precision and power of JCVI’s new techniques in synthetic biology.
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It turns out that the secret message in the watermark is partly in HTML. It’s amazing to think that they actually put HTML into the DNA of a living organism. They claim the code also supports Perl and Java, but that’s not present in this organism.