Thriving microbes with partially synthetic DNA have been created at the Scripps Research Institute in California. Unlike natural organisms which have DNA code made up from four letters (G, T, C and A), these genetically modified bacteria have DNA code with six letters, two of which are wholly synthetic and known as X and Y. The researchers describe the modified microbes as a starting point for efforts to “create organisms with wholly unnatural attributes and traits not found elsewhere in nature.” The cells constitute a “stable form of semi-synthetic life” and “lay the foundation for achieving the central goal of synthetic biology: the creation of new life-forms and functions”. The aim of this particular research is to create programmable microbes that can generate new proteins for use as drugs or new materials.
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