New organisms have been formed using the first ever 6-letter genetic code
This could be the beginning of a whole new life form.
Scientists have engineered the first ever ‘semi-synthetic’ organisms, by breeding E. coli bacteria with an expanded, six-letter genetic code.
While every living thing on Earth is formed according to a DNA code made up of four bases, these modified E. coli carry an entirely new type of DNA, with two additional DNA bases, X and Y, nestled in their genetic code.
The team, led by Floyd Romesberg from the Scripps Research Institute in California, engineered synthetic nucleotides — molecules that serve as the building blocks of DNA and RNA — to create an additional base pair, and they’ve successfully inserted this into the E. coli’s genetic code.
Now we have the world’s first semi-synthetic organism, with a genetic code made up of two natural base pairs and an additional ‘alien’ base pair, and Romesberg and his team suspect that this is just the beginning for this new form of life.
The first step was to build a better version of a tool called a nucleotide transporter, which transports pieces of the synthetic base pair into the bacteria’s DNA, and inserts it into the right place in the genetic code.
Originally published at Cogly.