Scientists build first organism with artificial DNA
Scientists just built the first living organism with an artificial genetic code that is fundamentally different from every living things on Earth.
To change the very nature of DNA was thought to be impossible, but not by scientists at the Scripps Research Institute. They just built the first living organism with artificial DNA.
The organism is called 'alien' because it does not share our basic four-letter genetic code — "our" meaning humans, penguins, bacteria, plants and every organism on Earth. The organism, in this case an E. coli bacterium, is considered "alive" because it can reproduce on its own.
Using an E. coli bacterium, researchers added two artificial nucleotides (represented by the letters X and Y) to the existing four (represented by the letters A, T, C and G). The bacterium reproduced with the X and Y nucleotides, the first indicator of success.
The living bacteria batch is the first-ever with six-lettered DNA. The new option to add extra letters open doors in genetic engineering. The breakthrough could advance medical science by allowing researchers to create medicines and antibiotics outside the range of natural DNA.
Some scientists are approaching the new finding with a bit more caution. Nature, a weekly science journal, published a column by Global Network of Science Academies co-chair, Volker ter Meulen, calling for more regulations in the ever-growing synthetic biology field when it comes to creating artificial life. Muelen also called for the regulations to come not from policy makers, but from experts who understand the science.
"As synthetic biology progresses, techniques and tools will inevitable be developed that are not covered by existing regulations," Meulen wrote. "We need an objective, evidence-based and balanced assessment of the risks and benefits, both within and beyond the CBD," which is the global conference that preserves biodiversity.
For now, there are no laws against tampering with the fundamental building blocks of life.