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Creating life from scratch: Scientists create first living organism from DNA

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/8/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Freshly created bacteria based on a genetic structure found nowhere on Earth

A team of researchers from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, have created a brand-new bacteria based on a genetic structure found nowhere on Earth. Before anyone rounds up the villagers with blazing torches, it's not as terrifying as it first sounds.

'Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G,' lead researcher Floyd Romesberg explained in a news release. 'And what we've made is an organism that stably contains those two plus a third, unnatural pair of bases.

"Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G," lead researcher Floyd Romesberg explained in a news release. "And what we've made is an organism that stably contains those two plus a third, unnatural pair of bases.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
5/8/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: DNA, research team, genetics


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The feat involved artificially engineering a unique combination of DNA material, which is a combination not found in any living creature. According to lead researcher Floyd Romesberg, the team then successfully inserted it into a living cell that usually contains only natural combinations of DNA.

"Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G," Romesberg explained in a news release. "And what we've made is an organism that stably contains those two plus a third, unnatural pair of bases.

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"This shows that other solutions to storing [genetic] information are possible," he added, "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."

The fruits of their labor came after 15 years of hard work. Their current effort builds on a proof-of-concept study conducted in 2008. Investigators at that time had shown that hooking up natural and unnatural pairings of DNA was possible in a test-tube setting.

The next challenge was to replicate the process inside a living cell. The cell chosen by the TSRI team was the common E. coli bacterium. The team then inserted what they considered to be the best unnatural DNA pairing they could construct: a combination of two molecules called "d5SICS" and "dNaM."

Researchers finally accomplished their goal by fashioning on a half-synthetic organism that could actually replicate its unnatural self as long as scientists continuously supplied it with the necessary molecular material.

Romesberg said that, in principle, his team's high-concept work has a very practical purpose: to gain a "greater power than ever" to fashion new treatments by harnessing the power of genetics.

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