Experts say they have achieved a scientific milestone – creating enzymes out of artificial genetic material that they made in their lab.
The synthetic enzymes functioned just as well as real ones.
The work, in Nature journal, not only provides clues to the building blocks of life but also points to a new way to make therapeutic drugs for humans.
The UK Medical Research Council team now hopes to make more complex structures that rival nature.
The ground work for the pioneering project started a couple of years ago when Dr. Philipp Holliger and his team created synthetic versions of DNA and its chemical cousin RNA – the molecules that carry the basic genetic code of life.
Using these artificial XNAs as building blocks, the researchers set out to see if they could make synthetic enzymes – substances that drive a wide range of bodily functions, such as how we digest our food.
Holliger explained: “Until recently, it was thought that DNA and RNA were the only molecules that could store genetic information and, together with proteins, the only biomolecules able to form enzymes.”
His team found it was possible to create enzymes from scratch using material that does not exist in nature.
Although entirely man-made, the synthetic enzymes are capable of building and breaking down molecules – just like naturally occurring ones.
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