Latest in Science

Image credit:

Scientists create 'semi-synthetic' living cells with extra DNA letters

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 8, 2014
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

It turns out that your biology teacher (and a certain 1997 sci-fi flick) got something wrong -- DNA isn't necessarily limited to four letters. Scripps Research Institute scientists tell Wired that they've created living cells which include two artificial letters (that is, nucleotides) in their genetic code in addition to the naturally occurring A, C, G and T. The researchers' primary obstacle was making sure these nucleotides cooperated with the enzymes that copy and transcribe DNA; after that, it was just a matter of getting some E. coli bacteria to accept and propagate the newly augmented sequences.

It could be a long while before we see any practical uses of the breakthrough. It's expensive to create the necessary precursor molecules, and it's not yet possible to get cells making those precursors all on their own. Should the processes become cheaper and easier, though, extending DNA could be helpful for testing the effects of medicine on certain gene combinations. It could also be used to deliver gene therapy; you could have tailor-made DNA that combats specific problems. Whatever comes next, it's now obvious that nature has a pretty limited vocabulary.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Engadget's 2020 Back-to-School Guide

Engadget's 2020 Back-to-School Guide

View
Amazon has eliminated single-use plastic at its Indian fulfilment centers

Amazon has eliminated single-use plastic at its Indian fulfilment centers

View
In ‘Ghost of Tsushima,’ Sony saves PS4’s best for last

In ‘Ghost of Tsushima,’ Sony saves PS4’s best for last

View
Researchers made a medical wearable using a pencil and paper

Researchers made a medical wearable using a pencil and paper

View
Lego's buildable NES console comes with a 'playable' game

Lego's buildable NES console comes with a 'playable' game

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr