Ever since the beginning of time, four nitrogenous base units always comprised DNA - adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine, or A, C, G and T. These are the molecules that pair up in the DNA helix, or the lines between humans and all life on Earth are spelled out. But recently, Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California scientists added two extra letters to this ancient alphabet.
Retention Of Synthetic Pair Is Challenging, Researchers Say
Science classes taught us that DNA double helix has four four bases, formed into two base pairs (A-T and C-G). But study which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences says that researchers add the unnatural base pair (UBP) of X and Y to the DNA of the E-coli bacteria.
Lead researcher Floyd Romesberg of the institute's Rosemberg Lab, said that his team was able to find the retention of the synthetic pair challenging, since the X and Y bases tend to fall off during cell division. However, when the molecular transporter was modified, the UBP was better received by the organic bases, and they stuck around indefinitely. The Y genome was also enhanced, making it easier to synthesize when they replicated it, The Guardian said.
This Technology Could Lead To Development Of Drugs To Treat A Range Of Diseases
The scientists say that these modified microbes are a starting point for efforts to "create organisms with wholly unnatural attributes and traits not found elsewhere in nature." They say that the cells constitute a stable form of "semi-synthetic life" and which lays the foundation to achieve the main goal of synthetic biology, which is to create new life forms and functions.
Researchers say that this will ultimately allow them to program how the organisms operate and behave - which sounds a lot like "Jurassic Park," others think. The goal of this study is to make bugs that churn out new kinds of proteins which can be harvested and turned into drugs to treat a range of diseases. Researchers confirm, though, that this discovery can also lead to technology of new kinds of materials.