Scientists have created new DNA
Researchers in the USA genetically engineered common E coli microbes to add DNA molecules which are not naturally found in the bacteria.
Throughout the history of life on Earth, the code of life has been writted with DNA combined with four letters – G (guanine), T (thymine), C (cytosine) and A (adenine) which are the molecules which match with the DNA helix which gives us all our unique code.
However, scientists have now extended this code to add two new molecules – which the team have dubbed X and Y – essentially creating a new life form.
The team behind the project say that they have created the synthetic DNA so that the bacterium create new forms of proteins which can be used for medicinal purposes.
Scientists added to the molecules in DNA
Dr Romesberg, the lead scientist from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said: “Your genome isn't just stable for a day.
“Your genome has to be stable for the scale of your lifetime.
“If the semisynthetic organism is going to really be an organism, it has to be able to stably maintain that information.
Scientists modified E.coli
“Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G, and what we’ve made is an organism that stably contains those two plus a third, unnatural pair of bases.
“This shows that other solutions to storing information are possible and of course, takes us closer to an expanded-DNA biology that will have many exciting applications – from new medicines to new kinds of nanotechnology.”
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It could eventually need to new forms of life
The next step of the process, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is to prove that the unnatural DNA can be transcribed into the RNA molecules of the bacterium which could ultimately allow scientists to control the bacterium’s future actions.
Dr Romesburg added: “In principle, we could encode new proteins made from new, unnatural amino acids, which would give us greater power than ever to tailor protein therapeutics and diagnostics and laboratory reagents to have desired functions.
“Other applications, such as nanomaterials, are also possible.”