As technology moves forward, scientists are able to achieve what was previously considered impossible. Now, scientists are on the verge of creating NEW lifeforms after managing to EXPAND the genetic code for the fist time.
Scientists from the US has managed to genetically engineer common E-Coli microbes to add molecules which aren’t present naturally in the bacteria.
During the long history of life on earth, the Code of life has been ‘programmed’ with DNA combined with four principal letters: G (guanine), T (thymine), C (cytosine) and A (adenine). These are the molecules which match with the DNA helix and eventually give us our UNIQUE Code.
Scientists however, have managed to EXTEND this code, adding TWO new molecules which they have called X and Y, leading to a completely NEW life form.
The reason? MEDICINE.
Experts behind the revolutionary project state that they have created the synthetic DNA in order to allow the bacterium to create new forms of proteins which could eventually be used in different medical treatments.
Speaking about the groundbreaking achievement, Dr. Romesberg lead scientist from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California stated:
“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. 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.”
But the process doesn’t end there. In fact, according to the study which has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the next step is to prove that ‘artificial, or unnatural DNA’ can be transcribed INTO the RNA molecules of the bacterium, which could open up countless possibilities for researchers like allowing them to control the bacterium’s future actions. Scary right?
Dr. Romesburg concluded: “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.”
More information: A semisynthetic organism engineered for the stable expansion of the genetic alphabet, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1616443114