Well, there's no way this could go wrong.
According to recent announcements, a small biotech startup in California has successfully added new synthetic components to the genetic alphabet of DNA, potentially creating entirely new kinds of life on Earth.
You'd need a Ph.D. or three to really get into it, but here goes: DNA, the organic molecule that carries genetic information for life, is made from a limited chemical "alphabet." DNA can be thought of as a molecular code containing exactly four nitrogen-containing nucleobases - cytosine (C), guanine (G), adenine (A), or thymine (T). All known living organisms on the planet, from bacteria to biologists, are based on combinations of this four-letter molecular code: C-G-A-T.
DNA Data Storage Lasts Thousands Of Years
That's how it's been for several billion years, but last year the biotech company Synthorx announced development of a synthetic pair of nucleobases - abbreviated X-Y - to create a new and expanded genetic code.
From the company website: "Adding two new synthetic bases, termed X and Y, to the genetic alphabet, we now have an expanded vocabulary to improve the discovery and development of new therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines as well as create innovative products and processes, including using semi-synthetic organisms...."
The additions to the four letter DNA code effectively raises the number of possible amino acids an organism could use to build proteins from 20 to 172. That opens up entire new vistas of possibilities, including a completely new class of semi-synthetic life forms using a six-letter DNA code instead of a four-letter code.
Brainwaves, Heartbeat, DNA Turned Into Music
Synthorx's most recent announcement concerns the successful production of proteins containing the new synthetic base pair, building on the research published last year: "Since the publication, Synthorx has developed and validated a protein expression system, employing its synthetic DNA technology to incorporate novel amino acids to create new full-length and functional proteins."
According to third-party reports, Synthorx has even started creating new organisms with the technology, including a type of E. coli bacteria "never before seen on the face of the Earth."
The company insists that multiple safeguards are built into the technology, and that organisms created with the synthetic elements can only be produced in the lab. That, of course, is the premise of roughly one million science fiction horror stories, but what can you do? Well, you can read more about it here.
via Extreme Tech