[Bustamante's] lab has entered the field of synthetic biology and is working towards creating a living organism by furnishing mitochondria with the genes that might make them independent from their host cells. Mitochondria are energy-generating organelles that are found inside the cells of all eukaryotic organisms such as plants, animals, and humans. They are thought to be descendants of a bacterium that was engulfed by another cell at some point during the evolution of life. Since then, mitochondria have lost most of their genes and cannot live independently anymore, but rely on their host cell for survival. Research in the Bustamante lab aims at reintroducing the essential genes into mitochondria that will make them independent once again, to gain a better understanding of the minimal set of genes that constitutes life.
The link is more a profile of Dr Bustamante than about his research. However, I couldn't resist the idea of Berkeley espousing freedom for mitochondria! Synthetic Biology Shall Set You Free!!!