Two new letters in the genetic code

Publié le : 9 May 2014

 Basically, the DNA of all living organisms comprises four bases or “letters”: A for adenine, T for thymine, G for guanine and C for cytosine. These letters are paired together to form the genetic code specific to each organism, for instance “AATTCGTAGC“. 

However, according to the scientific journal, Nature, that could all change. In fact, a team of scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, has succeeded in inserting two new letters, which do not exist in the natural state, “in a bacterial genome – [Escherichia coli or E-coli bacteria] -, which are proliferated over several generations“. This new pair of non-natural bases, namely d5SICS and dNaM, can be found in 99.4 % of the descendants of the bacterium.

Floyd Romesberg, scientist at Scripps Research Institute de la Jolla explained: “We have managed to create an organism that stores additional genetic information without altering it. We are now working on how to recover this information“. 
There is currently no evidence as to the outcome of this type of genetic handling. In a press release, Floyd Romesberg explained: “this shows us that other solutions are feasible (apart from A-T, C-G) for storing information“. He went on to add that, “this brings us closer to the biology of DNA, which offers numerous exciting applications, ranging from new medicinal products to innovative nanotechnologies“. 

In conclusion, a journalist at Le Figaro mentioned that if scientists managed “to effectively collect the genetic information artificially introduced into cells, the medical and economic potential would be enormous“. Thus lawyers and ethicists will have a key role to play in securing these “exciting new perspectives“. The journalist ended on the following note, “scientists do not only alter Nature’s creations – they also create Nature”.

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