I really hope this does not turn into a “Fringe” event.
It only took 15 years, but scientists have created a living cell that contains two unnatural DNA building blocks. What this means in the grander sense is that we (as humanity) are one step closer to being able to synthesize cells that can produce drugs on demand. It even brings us closer to a future where we could create a wholly unique life never before seen on Earth.
Floyd Romesberg, who has led the research for the past decade and a half, explains,
“What we have now is a living cell that literally stores increased genetic information. It’s also worth highlighting that we’ve convinced natural life to live in harmony with synthetic genetic material—which is huge. After all, we’ve created synthetic DNA before. But this is a new kind of cyborg DNA, and it’s potentially much more powerful.”
The title may seem misleading but in reality what the scientists have created IS something completely new and foreign.
DNA on Earth contains the same four DNA subunits—also known as nucleotides—represented by the letters A, T, C, and G. Now, the possibilities are seemingly endless, as scientists have literally expanded that alphabet to include at least two new, unnatural subunits.
Some scientists have taken it a step further and assert that it is possible to create an organism solely out of the foreign nucleotides. These bear little resemblance to the four natural ones according to Steven Benner, who pioneered this type of research back in the 1980s.
“I don’t think there’s any limit,” Benner toldNature. “If you go back and rerun evolution for four billion years, you could come up with a different genetic system.”