The radical possibilities of man-made DNA | Floyd E. Romesberg | Summary and Q&A

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The radical possibilities of man-made DNA | Floyd E. Romesberg

TL;DR

This content discusses the creation of semi-synthetic organisms with a six-letter genetic alphabet and explores the implications for life beyond Earth.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is DNA and how is it similar to the English language?

DNA is made up of genetic letters that combine to form genes, which allow cells to produce proteins. Just like how the English language is made up of alphabetic letters that combine to form words and tell stories, DNA uses its genetic letters to produce proteins that perform functions within a cell.

Q: How many genetic letters make up the DNA alphabet?

The DNA alphabet consists of four genetic letters: G, C, A, and T. These letters pair together to form base pairs, with G pairing with C and A pairing with T.

Q: What did the researchers at Scripps Research Institute aim to achieve with their work on DNA?

The researchers at Scripps Research Institute aimed to create a semi-synthetic form of life by expanding the DNA alphabet from four to six genetic letters. This would allow the organism to store more information and produce proteins with more diverse and potentially beneficial functions.

Q: How did the researchers create bacteria with a six-letter DNA?

The researchers synthesized hundreds of new candidate letters and tested their ability to selectively pair with each other. After 15 years of work, they found two candidate letters, named X and Y, that paired together effectively. They then introduced X and Y into bacteria and demonstrated that the cells were able to grow, divide, and retain the X and Y in their DNA.

Q: What are some potential applications of semi-synthetic organisms with an expanded genetic alphabet?

One potential application is the production of protein drugs with enhanced properties for medical purposes. By incorporating new amino acids into proteins, researchers hope to develop more stable and effective protein drugs. Additionally, semi-synthetic organisms could be engineered to perform specific functions, such as targeting and killing cancer cells or cleaning up oil spills.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • DNA is the basis of all life, similar to how the English language is made up of letters.

  • The genetic alphabet consists of four letters, while the English alphabet has 26 letters.

  • Scientists have created bacteria with a six-letter DNA, which opens up possibilities for new proteins and functions.

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