The most famous science fiction story about artificial life is, of course, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein published in 1818. In the novel, scientist Victor Frankenstein robs graves and sews parts taken from dead bodies into a new body. He then harnesses the electricity of a lightning bolt to bring life to the inanimate body.
Jack Szostak, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, is conducting experiments aimed at creating an artificial single-celled organism from chemicals. He has already been successful in creating self-replicating RNA molecules from nucleotides.
Steen Rasmussen, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is also working on a synthetic life form, nicknamed the "Bug," which he plans to build from a molecule largely foreign to natural life forms: peptide nucleic acid (PNA). PNA uses the same "letters" of the genetic code as DNA - A, T, C, and G - enabling PNA to self-replicate in a similar fashion to DNA.