Pesky germ inspires first complete 'virtual organism'
A microbe that causes sexually transmitted infections now has a much more awe-inspiring claim to fame: It has become the first organism to be completely simulated by a computer model.
The bug in question, Mycoplasma genitalium, is a good candidate for scientists to reconstruct using a computer, because it is truly tiny, with only 525 genes. (By comparison, humans have about 20,500 genes.)
This accomplishment opens the door for creating more complicated virtual organisms, potentially accelerating research and making it possible for bioengineers to use computers to design organisms, said lead researcher Markus Covert, a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University.
Using these computer-model organisms, researchers could test out ideas and compare their results to what is seen in living things. In particular, these virtual "organisms" could help them probe the complexity of many biological phenomena, Covert said.
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