The genome of one bacterium has been successfully replaced with that of a different bacterium, transforming one species into another. This development is a harbinger of whole-genome engineering for practical ends.
Researchers at the Craig Venter institute have filed an application for a patent that covers 400 genes that represent "the strict minimum set of genes necessary for cell life". Their research in bacteria has proven that you can take the DNA from one species and transport it to another species cell with positive results.
For many computer guys this is close to an operating system, or rather, if you do have that level of portability between applications, an API standardization ala Java. This means that many of the mechanisms needed by the cell for its proper functioning seem to be shared between species, a commons of life mechanisms as it were.
Since this issue of Nature comes with a 50's sci-fi cover and the promise of "many worlds!", the article itself focuses on the sensational aspect of the result. This is positioned as a "species transformation". Is this the advent of Chimeras? Au contraire, I believe that the results speaks to what species have in common (their middleware) rather than what would happen if we mixed individual species traits. But middleware was always a boring story.
The second article called "entry granted" has to do with permeating brain cells. See, it has been traditionally difficult to deliver chemical cargo or really any cargo at all into the brain due to this brain barrier. This blood barrier btw gave us an evolutionary advantage as it evolved itself by way of stability for the brain.
So they found this backdoor on the surface of brain cells of mice. Some key is available to sneak in small charges into the backdoor. In the research they apparently cargo 40 bases into the brain cells.
To find the backdoor what they did is they studied the Rabies virus (RVG).
Kumar et al. exploited the fact that neuro-tropic viruses - such as the rabies virus - that preferentially infect the nervous system can penetrate the brain. The rabies virus achieves this through glycoproteins on its lipid envelope.
What these guys then did is isolate the key and rebuild a little package with arbitrary cargo around it. Ship that around the brain cells, and see what gives. What gave is uptake into the brain.
What can you do with 30 or 40 bases in a cell that is useful? SIRNA is a good answer. The point is to interfere with messenger RNA by using binary complementary snippets that will bind like "unique keys" to a given encoding for a protein. Your snippets bind uniquely to the messenger RNA and voila you have interfered with the expression of that DNA and the production of that protein. Very handy to study genetics because you can turn on/off one gene selectively at a time.
So that's it. They have demonstrated cargo delivery in mice brain cell to achieve siRNA in neurons. That's a whole new toolset for drug designers.