NEW LIFE FORMS
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