First News - - Science News -

RE­SEARCHERS have cre­ated the first liv­ing or­gan­isms with an ex­panded ge­netic code, in­creas­ing the chances of in­vent­ing en­tirely new life forms.

All life on Earth fol­lows a ‘blue­print’ writ­ten in a code made up of four things called bases, that are named af­ter let­ters: A,T, C and G. In DNA, two of these bases join to­gether to form a pair. DNA is the chem­i­cal that car­ries ge­netic in­for­ma­tion. It is con­tained in chro­mo­somes, which are lo­cated in the nu­cleus of most cells.

Sci­en­tists have now cre­ated a bac­te­ria that uses an ad­di­tional two bases. They did this by mod­i­fy­ing a bac­te­ria’s DNA with the new bases, named X and Y. So the mod­i­fied bac­te­ria has an ex­panded ge­netic code, and the hope is that this new, tiny or­gan­ism could be used to make pro­teins that can be used in new drugs to treat dis­ease.

For now, the new bases do noth­ing other than sur­vive in the bac­te­ria. The next stage of the re­search by the team in Cal­i­for­nia is to have the bac­te­ria cre­ate the new pro­teins nec­es­sary to make medicines.

Bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Paul Freemont said: “This is a ma­jor step for­ward in show­ing that a liv­ing cell such as a sim­ple bac­terium can be en­gi­neered to sus­tain a base pair not found in na­ture.”

A DNA mol­e­cule

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