A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Scientists Add New Letters To DNA's 'Alphabet'
Chemical biologist Floyd Romesberg and his colleagues have succeeded in creating two artificial DNA 'letters' that are accurately replicated by a natural enzyme. These two new base pairs could radically rewrite the rules of genetic engineering.
Life on Earth evolved with genetic code that is made from different arrangements of four genetic "bases," The bases are divided into two pairs, which bond on opposite strands of a DNA molecule. This forms the rungs of the double-helix ladder of DNA.
Romesberg set up experiments that generated thousands of potential bases at random, and then screened them to see of any would be treated normally by a polymerase enzyme. h the help of graduate student Aaron Leconte, the group synthesized and screened 3600 candidates. Two different screening approaches turned up the same pair of molecules, called dSICS and dMMO2.
"We now have an unnatural base pair that's efficiently replicated and doesn't need an unnatural polymerase," says Romesberg. "It's staring to behave like a real base pair... "We still don't have a detailed understanding of how replication happens," added Romesberg. "Now that we have an unnatural base pair, we are continuing experiments to understand it better."
Science fiction fans are less shocked by this development, having already seen this particular future in the X-files. The following dialog is from The Erlenmeyer Flask, first aired in 1994.
CARPENTER: These are the DNA sequences from the bacteria sample you brought in. You seem to know something about molecular biology. Do you know what you're looking at?
SCULLY: Yeah, I think those are genes.
CARPENTER: Right. They're called base pairs. Each pair is made up of something called a nucleotide. Only four nucleotides exist in DNA. Four. And through some miracle of design that we have yet to fathom, every living thing is created out of these four basic building blocks. What you're looking at is a sequence of genes from the bacteria sample. Normally, we'd find no gaps in the sequence. But with these bacteria, we do.
SCULLY: Why is that?
CARPENTER: I don't know why. But I tell you, under any other circumstances, my first call would have been to the government.
SCULLY: What exactly did you find?
CARPENTER: A fifth and sixth DNA nucleotide. A new base pair. Agent Scully, what are you looking at... it exists nowhere in nature. IT would have to be, by definition... extraterrestrial.
Romesberg's ultimate goal? "We want to import these into a cell, study RNA trafficking, and in the longest term, expand the genetic code and 'evolvability' of an organism."
Via New Scientist; thanks to Eric Nodacker for the tip and sf reference.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/30/2008)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Altos Labs' Bezos Wants An Anti-Agathic (To Live Forever)
'So what we're looking for now is... an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug.' - James Blish, 1957.
Anti-Forced Organ Harvesting Global Summit
'The doctor was a line of machines with a conveyor belt running through them.' - Larry Niven, 1967.
Israel Okays Third Covid Shot For Seniors
'All the vaccination shots up and down his arms, on his thighs and buttocks...' - Philip K. Dick, 1955.
Stretchable OLED Heart Monitor Band-Aid
You can't buy them in the store just yet.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Jetson ONE Personal Electric Aerial Vehicle
Who says you can't have your flying car?
Starlab By Nanoracks, A Commercial Space Station
'Webb Foster had built his space laboratory... It was a great crystal sphere, a thousand feet in diameter.'
Auto-Targeting Fire Sprinkler Systems Now Reality
I think every kitchen should have one of these.
Monarch Tractor - It's Electric, Autonomous and Smart
'Driver-optional' and follows gestures.
'Seabreeze' Apple And UCLA Project To Beat Depression
'It's illegal to hold back information during a psyche test,' the machine said peevishly.'
Hovermap By Emesent Autonomous Mapping Works Indoors - and Out
Perfect for exploring ancient artifacts on distant planets.
Sono Motor's Sion Sun-Powered Car
'...six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof.'
LEONARDO Robot Has Legs And Thrusters, Can Skateboard, Slackline
'a walking balloon proceeded with long strides of its aluminum legs over a slant of steep upland.'
Xavier Robots On Patrol For 'Anti-Social Behavior'
'This was as close as a robot could get to a cop in uniform.'
Rotating House in Bosnia
'... feel free to turn the house on your own.'
Ingenious Engineer Creates DIY Feeding Robot
'Waldo flexed and extended his fingers gently; the two pairs of waldoes in the screen followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism.'
SpaceX Creates 'Tholian Web' Mega Constellation Of Satellites
'We shall not see home again!'
Do Smart Glasses Need Forward-Facing Cameras?
'They were stylish, with yellow-tinted lenses and hip frames, but the posts were unusually thick.'
Adorable One-Seater Electric Car From Wuxi Sinotech
'Noiselessly, on rubber-tired wheels, they journeyed...'
Zoom Adds Real-Time, Live Translation
'He immediately turned the small shining disc of the Language Rectifier..'
It's Spacewalk Sunday, Thanks To The ESA
'The delicious, indescribable pleasure of being a little planet swinging through space...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories