Since life began DNA has been composed of two base pairs, A-T and C-G. Every living organism on the planet has DNA that is made up from combinations of these base pairs…until now.
Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have engineered a new code, a new base pair, and they have incorporated it into a single bacterium by supplying the building blocks in the form of a fluid applied externally to the bacterium it replicated, just as a natural organism would. The bacteria they chose for their experiments is E. coli.
The research was published in the online journal Nature.
Preempting the inevitable questions about a runaway reaction and the world being faced with an entirely new, semi-synthetic organism, the researchers were quick to point out that they have to supply nutrients externally to make the bacteria replicate. Nowhere in the literature can I find any indication that they have considered mutation, adaptation or anything else that could lead to this ‘enhanced’ E. coli making a break for freedom.
In a world that is moving into a post-antibiotic era you would think that scientists would have something better to do than create un-natural DNA. They say it will lead to breakthroughs in medicine and nanotechnology. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but if these men and women are capable of making synthetic DNA surely they are capable of engineering current bacteria to be less harmful to humans.
What could be more important than tackling the problems we are encountering now? Will synthetic DNA help more people than malaria kills? Will it prevent children dying from cholera and typhoid? Surely solving these problems is more important that synthesizing DNA, which has a reasonable chance of creating quite a few new ones?
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Contributed by Chris Carrington of The Daily Sheeple.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!