New life form with man-made DNA
SCIENTISTS have created the first organism with synthetic DNA that can replicate in a cell - an achievement that could well add new letters to the genetic code underlying life on earth.
In the natural world, just two chemical base pairs, called A-T and C-G, make up the building blocks of DNA in all life forms. Research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature describes the creation of a cell that contains a man-made base pair, dubbed d5SICS-dNaM.
By expanding the natural boundaries of what constitutes life, scientists hope to one day create new proteins that can handle a variety of chores in the body, which could lead to unique ways to attack disease. The approach is safe, the researchers said, because it includes a chemical additive that the cell needs to survive.
"We created an organism that lives and stably harbours genetic information in its DNA," said chemist Floyd Romesberg at the Scripps Research Institute in California, whose laboratory created the new organism. "Instead of two base pairs, it has a third."
Dr Romesberg said his work differs from other research in the field of genetic engineering in that it involves the creation of components that are purely synthetic and "integrated into the machinery of life in a cell".
The research, while promising for fields of medicine and drug development, will probably raise ethical and safety concerns.