“The arrival of this unprecedented ‘alien’ life form could in time have far-reaching ethical, legal and regulatory implications,”
Scientists reported Wednesday that they had taken a significant step toward altering the fundamental alphabet of life — creating an organism with an expanded artificial genetic code in its DNA.
The accomplishment might eventually lead to organisms that can make medicines or industrial products that cells with only the natural genetic code cannot.
The scientists behind the work at the Scripps Research Institute have already formed a company to try to use the technique to develop new antibiotics, vaccines and other products, though a lot more work needs to be done before this is practical.
The work also gives some support to the concept that life can exist elsewhere in the universe using genetics different from those on Earth.
“This is the first time that you have had a living cell manage an alien genetic alphabet,” said Steven A. Benner, a researcher in the field at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Gainesville, Fla., who was not involved in the new work.
But the research, published online by the journal Nature, is bound to raise safety concerns and questions about whether humans are playing God. The new paper could intensify calls for greater regulation of the budding field known as synthetic biology, which involves the creation of biological systems intended for specific purposes.
“The arrival of this unprecedented ‘alien’ life form could in time have far-reaching ethical, legal and regulatory implications,” Jim Thomas of the ETC Group, a Canadian advocacy organization, said in an email. “While synthetic biologists invent new ways to monkey with the fundamentals of life, governments haven’t even been able to cobble together the basics of oversight, assessment or regulation for this surging field.”
Despite the great diversity of life on Earth, all species, from simple bacteria to human beings, use the same genetic code. It consists of four chemical units in DNA, sometimes called nucleotides or bases, that are usually represented by the letters A, C, G and T. The sequence of these chemical units determines what proteins the cell makes. Those proteins in turn do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.
The Scripps researchers chemically created two new nucleotides, which they called X and Y. They inserted an X-Y pair into the common bacterium E. coli. The bacteria were able to reproduce normally, though a bit more slowly than usual, replicating the X and Y along with the natural nucleotides.
In effect, the bacteria have a genetic code of six letters rather than four, perhaps allowing them to make novel proteins that could function in a completely different way from those created naturally.
“If you have a language that has a certain number of letters, you want to add letters so you can write more words and tell more stories,” said Floyd E. Romesberg, a chemist at Scripps who led the work.
Dr. Romesberg dismissed concern that novel organisms would run amok and cause harm, saying the technique was safe because the synthetic nucleotides were fed to the bacteria. Should the bacteria escape into the environment or enter someone’s body, they would not be able to obtain the needed synthetic material and would either die or revert to using only natural DNA.
The Latest on: Synthetic biology
via Google News
The Latest on: Synthetic biology
- Digital cell biology company Berkeley Lights files for a $100 million IPOon June 26, 2020 at 4:10 pm
The article Digital cell biology company Berkeley Lights files for a $100 million IPO originally appeared on IPO investment manager Renaissance Capital's web site renaissancecapital.com. Investment ...
- If Biology Can Build It, They Will Come: Ginkgo Bioworks Is Laying The Foundation For The $4 Trillion Bioeconomyon June 25, 2020 at 4:58 am
Early innovators in synthetic biology have had to get creative to grow not just their own ... [+] businesses, but the industry as a whole. Perhaps no company has contributed more to this growth than ...
- FMC Corporation Launches FMC Ventures to Advance Emerging Ag Technology Innovationon June 25, 2020 at 4:30 am
PRNewswire/ -- FMC Corporation (NYSE: FMC) announced today that it has launched FMC Ventures. The new venture capital arm of FMC Corporation is ...
- Synthetic Biology Market Insights, Current And Future Market Trends & Forecast Till 2027on June 24, 2020 at 3:17 am
The synthetic biology market report, published by GMI Research, provides extensive insight and analysis of the synthetic biology market over the forecast period (2020-2027). The report primarily ...
- Rolling circle amplification of synthetic DNA accelerates biocatalytic determination of enzyme activity relative to conventional methodson June 24, 2020 at 2:15 am
The ability to quickly and easily assess the activity of large collections of enzymes for a desired substrate holds great promise in the field of biocatalysis. Cell-free synthesis, although not ...
- Synthetic Biology Market Comprehensive Analysis 2020 And Top Key Players Analysison June 23, 2020 at 12:11 am
The Synthetic Biology Market research provides a brief analysis comprising both primary and secondary research. The report provides the perception of all the key factors somehow affecting Synthetic ...
- Synthetic Biology Market Latest In-Depth Report Segment by Manufacturers, Type, Applications and Dynamicson June 23, 2020 at 12:08 am
The synthetic biology market is projected to reach USD 19.8 billion by 2025 from USD 6.8 billion in 2020, at a CAGR ...
- Holistic engineering of cell-free systems through proteome-reprogramming synthetic circuitson June 19, 2020 at 2:10 am
Synthetic biological modules can be used to reprogram host proteomes, which in turn enhance the function of the synthetic modules. The authors use this holistic synthetic biology approach to engineer ...
- Synthetic COVID-19 fuels the race for vaccineon June 18, 2020 at 9:21 pm
In the U.S., Bay Area labs are crafting the virus and its genes — synthetically and safely, tweaked so they’re not infectious.
- Race for a vaccine: Synthetic COVID-19 viruses, built from scratch in the Bay Area, fuel critical researchon June 17, 2020 at 6:00 am
Bay Area labs are crafting custom-ordered genes, viruses and antibodies. Designed, built and shipped to labs around the world, these synthetic creations are accelerating the development of ...
via Bing News