"Work that paves the way for the creation and exploitation of entirely new life forms."

Programmable genetically engineered microbes

#Science

Thu, Jan 26th, 2017 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

According to The Guardian, scientists have modified E coli to include a “beefed-up payload of genetic material” so that the microbes could be given “wholly unnatural attributes and traits not found elsewhere in nature.” Reportedly, the modified organisms could be used to create proteins needed for drug making or creating new kind of materials.

For now, the synthetic bases do nothing other than survive in the microbes. The next stage of the research is to have the microbes read the extra genetic material, and in the first instance, make new kinds of proteins that are not found in nature. “This will blow open what we can do with proteins,” Romesberg said. Details of the work are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is a major step forward in showing that a living cell such as a simple bacterium can be engineered to sustain a synthetic base pair not found in nature,” said Paul Freemont, who specialises in synthetic biology at Imperial College in London. “This leads to the concept of semi-synthetic living systems that could be engineered to perform specific functions that would rely on a distinct genetic code compared to the natural genetic code.”

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