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May 26 - June 1 2010
Follow, follow… Shy Danielle is off to see the Wizard
By Richard Alleyne Science Correspondent MAN-MADE life has been created in a laboratory for the first time, by a maverick scientist. Dr Craig Venter, a multi-millionaire pioneer in genetics, has managed to make a new “synthetic” life form from a collection of chemicals.
He and his team manufactured a chromosome from artificial DNA in a test tube, then transferred it into an empty cell and watched it multiply – considered the basic definition of being alive. The resulting single cell “creature” proves that the technology works.
Now Dr Venter believes it will pave the way for more complex creatures that can turn waste into clean fuel, vaccinate against disease and soak up pollution.
His development has prompted debate over the ethics of “playing God” and potential dangers of biological hazards and warfare. “We are entering an era limited only by our
Synthetic Mycoplasma cells created in the study imagination,” Dr Venter said as he announced the research published in the journal Science. He and his team at the J Craig Venter Institute in Maryland have been chasing the goal for more than 15 years at a cost of £30 million.
They started by deciphering the genetic code of Mycoplasma genitalium, the world’s smallest bacterium, which lives in cattle and goats, and storing the information on a computer. Then they used the computer to reproduce the DNA artificially in the laboratory, slightly modifying it with a “watermark” to distinguish it from the natural version.
Finally, they developed a way to strip bacteria cells of all original DNA and substitute the artificial version.
The resulting “synthetic cell” then began to replicate. The researchers aim to use the same process to design algae to capture carbon dioxide from the air and make new hydrocarbons that could go into refineries as oil does. They are also working on ways to speed up vaccine production and to clean water.
The artificial life form is still incredibly simple. Its DNA is made of 485 genes, compared with a human’s 20,000.
Prof Julian Savulescu, an expert in ethics at Oxford, said: “Venter is creaking open the most profound door in humanity’s history, potentially peeking into its destiny. He is going toward the role of a god: creating artificial life that could never have existed naturally. We need new standards of safety evaluation for this kind of radical research.”
Danielle Hope offers a kiss to the dog, a miniature schnauzer, that will play Toto in the new stage version of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Inset: Miss Hope as a princess in a family photograph
AS a child she was so shy that her mother called her a “porcelain doll”. But yesterday Danielle Hope was having to get used to the idea of becoming a West End star after winning the role of Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new stage version of The Wizard of Oz.
Danielle, 18, performed flawlessly to an audience of millions on the BBC talent show Over the Rainbow on Saturday, when viewers voted her their favourite Dorothy out of three finalists. Next spring, she will take to the stage for one of the most highly anticipated musical productions of the year.
The A-level student from Manchester said yesterday that she only overcame her chronic shyness when she was thrust on to the stage aged 11. “I was so shy the whole way through primary school. My mother used to call me the porcelain doll because I always used to just sit there taking it all in,” she said.
Her transformation to stage star only began when she was made to play Betty Rizzo, the tough and sarcastic leader of the Pink Ladies in Grease, at Highfield Primary School in Urmston, Greater Manchester. “I remember thinking, ‘Please don’t make me stand on that stage’,” she said. “I said to the teachers, ‘I can’t do it.’”
Once forced in front of the lights, however, “I found it incredibly easy to be someone else on stage,” she said. “I suddenly found something that I could do.”
By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter THE Duchess of York has been condemned as “shoddy and grubby” by a government minister after she was caught trying to sell access to her former husband for £500,000.
The Duchess accepted $40,000 (£28,000) in cash as a downpayment on the deal from an undercover reporter posing as a businessman who wanted to meet the Duke of York, who is a trade ambassador for Britain. She told the reporter: “Look after me and I’ll look after you… you’ll get it back tenfold.” She added: “I can open any door you want.”
Lynne Featherstone, the Home Office Minister, took the unusual step of criticising the Duchess, saying: “It’s really depressing. Lord knows what the Queen thinks waking up this morning. It’s shoddy and grubby and really upsetting.”
Ministers have an unwritten agreement that they never criticise members of the Royal family, and while the Duchess lost her royal status when she and the Duke divorced in 1996, she has previously been afforded the same courtesy.
The Duchess, 50, who is reported to have debts of more than £800,000, issued an apology for her “serious lapse of judgment” and admitted that her financial situation was “under stress”. “I am sincerely sorry for my actions,” she added.
The News of the World, which filmed the Duchess making arrangements for the money to be wired to her bank account, claimed it had the names of two businessmen whom the Duchess had introduced to the Duke. She boasted that her exhusband “meets the most amazing people, and he just throws them my way” and also demanded that a cut of any deal resulting from her introduction should be given to her charity. There is no suggestion the Duke was aware of what his former wife was up to. On Sunday night he issued a statement in which he “categorically” denied any knowledge of the meeting between the Duchess and the undercover reporter. The Duchess had said that the Duke had advised her to ask for £500,000 to set up a meeting.
However, she also stressed that her former husband “never does accept a penny for anything… he is completely whiter than white”.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the allegations, but the Duchess is expected to meet her former husband this week to explain herself.