DNA alphabet expanded, opens up new possibilities for synthetic drugs

Way back in Biology 101, we learned that DNA is encoded through the nucleotide pairings of adenine to thymine and cytosine to guanine. Since the earliest days of life on Earth, these four chemicals — and only these four chemicals — have made up the DNA of every one of the myriad organisms that inhabit this planet. But what if you could expand that alphabet?

As it turns out, you can. In a paper published in Nature, scientists report that they’ve successfully introduced an entirely new base pair into the genetic structure of the bacterium E. coli. That makes the bacterium the first semi-synthetic organism carrying an expanded genetic alphabet.

And just as one can create new words with new letters in the alphabet, a synthetic base pair opens up possibilities for custom-built proteins as novel drugs, vaccines and antibiotics.

Read the full, original story: Breakthrough in Artificial Genetic Code Could Lead to Custom Drugs

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