First ‘Alien’ Microorganism Produced by Scientists in the Lab

First 'Alien' Microorganism Produced by Scientists in the Lab

It is being reported that scientists have produced the first “alien” microorganism that have a drastically different genetic code from any other life which exists on Earth in the lab. Researchers think this breakthrough could be the first step toward generating new bacteriological life forms with innovative engineering or medical properties that may result from a possibly gigantic development of genetic information.

The semi man-made microorganism, which is a genetically altered E. coli bacterium, has been created with an additional artificial piece of DNA that has an enlarged genetic alphabet. Instead of the regular four letters used, this DNA molecule contains six.

The normal genetic code of every living thing is based on a classification of four bases,( – G, C, T, A –). They form two sets of fused pairs, G to C and T to A, which connect the two strands of the DNA double helix.

However, the DNA of the novel microbe have extra base pairs, noted by X and Y. They pair up just like the other pairs and have become totally integrated into the DNA’s genetic code just the same. The scientists stated that the alien E. coli bacterium repeats normally and passes on its genetic information to following generations. Yet it was unable to use the new information to create any new proteins.

The research report was printed up in the journal Nature and had been the very first time that scientists have actually been able to create a genetically altered microbe that is able to function and duplicate and has an actual different genetic code to the one that has been thought to have existed since life first began to evolve on Earth more than 4 billion years ago.

Professor Floyd Romesberg, who works at a science institute in California, stated that all life on Earth in its diversity is encrypted by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G. He added that they have created is an organism that is stable which contains these two plus a third, unnatural base pair. Nothing like this has ever been done before and been successful.

This takes biology to a closer expanded-DNA type of science that will have numerous exciting applications ranging from new types of nanotechnology to new medications, added Professor Romesberg

In increasing the genetic code by adding an extra base pair raises the outlook of constructing new kinds of proteins from a bigger range of amino acids than the 20 or so which occur in nature. A new code which is centered around six base pairs might be in theory deal with over 200 amino acids, stated the researchers.

Professor Romesberg explained that in principle, they might be able to translate new proteins made from novel, unnatural amino acids, which could give scientist even better power to modify protein therapeutics and diagnostics and laboratory substances to have the proper functions.

The scientists stressed that there was little danger of the newly created life forms being able to live outside the borders of the laboratory, because they are not able to duplicate with their alien DNA strand unless they are constantly fed both the X and Y bases. These are synthetic chemicals which do not exist in nature.

The bacteria also require an unusual protein to move the special bases around the microbe. The carrier protein comes from algae and if it, or the X and Y bases, are missing, the bacterial cells change back to their natural genetic code.

Eventually it might be possible to produce a completely synthetic creature with DNA that encloses hundreds of various base pairs which may produce an almost enormously complex library of amino acids and proteins. At that time, scientists would actually be rewiring four billion years of evolution. The organisms and creatures that would be created would be unrecognizable and be able to do who knows what.

Repeating: It is being reported that scientists have produced the first “alien” microorganism that have a drastically different genetic code from any other life which exists on Earth. Researchers think this breakthrough could be the first step toward generating new bacteriological life forms with innovative engineering or medical properties that may result from a possibly gigantic development of genetic information

By Kimberly Ruble

Sources:

The Independent

The Huffington Post

Extreme Tech News

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