American scientists have for the first time ever made it possible for an organism to survive with artificial DNA, making it more likely new medicines can be developed, while raising ethical concerns among some advocates.
For researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California the breakthrough, published Wednesday in the Nature science journal, was 15 years in the making.
The announcement is so remarkable because, for billions of years, all life has been made up of DNA subunits categorized by four letters: A, T, C and G. Scientists have now added two new DNA building blocks to E. coli bugs, which then reproduced as normal with the two extra letters in their genetic code.
The research could eventually lead to the production of completely new proteins that could be used either for medicinal purposes or industrial products. It also lends credibility to the theory that life in outer space could exist entirely without the DNA found on Earth.
“What we have now is a living cell that literally stores increased genetic information,” said Floyd Romesberg, the Scripps chemical biologist who led the study. “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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