Quantcast
Connect with us

Scientists create DNA alternative

Published

on

Artificial genetic material – XNAs – expected to reveal how molecules first replicated and drive biotechnology research

Scientists have created artificial genetic material that can store information and evolve over generations in a similar way to DNA – a feat expected to drive research in medicine and biotechnology, and shed light on how molecules first replicated and assembled into life billions of years ago.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ultimately, the creation of alternatives to DNA could enable scientists to make novel forms of life in the laboratory.

Researchers at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in Cambridge, developed chemical procedures to turn DNA and RNA, the molecular bases for all known life, into six alternative genetic polymers called XNAs.

The process swaps the deoxyribose and ribose (the “d” and “r” in DNA and RNA) for other molecules. It was found the XNAs could form a double helix with DNA and were more stable than natural genetic material.

In the journal Science the researchers describe how they caused one of the XNAs to stick to a protein, an ability that might mean the polymers could deployed as drugs working like antibodies.

ADVERTISEMENT

Philipp Holliger, a senior author on the study, said the work proved that two hallmarks of life – heredity and evolution – were possible using alternatives to natural genetic material.

“There is nothing Goldilocks about DNA and RNA,” Holliger told Science. “There is no overwhelming functional imperative for genetic systems or biology to be based on these two nucleic acids.”

Vitor Pinheiro, a co-author on the paper, said the research could help scientists unpick how DNA and RNA became so crucial in the evolution of life, and perhaps even help in the search for extraterrestrial organisms. “If a genetic system doesn’t have to be based on DNA and RNA, what then do you define as life? How do you look for life?” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

In an accompanying article, Gerald Joyce, of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, says the study heralds an “era of synthetic genetics, with implications for exobiology [which deals with extraterrestrial life], biotechnology and understanding life itself”. He adds: “Construction of genetic systems based on alternative chemical platforms may ultimately lead to the synthesis of novel forms of life.”

Other scientists, including a team at the J Craig Venter Institute , in Rockville, Maryland, are hoping to make synthetic organisms from scratch, but the majority of the work so far has used conventional DNA.

In his article on the Cambridge study Joyce alludes to the potential dangers of synthetic genetics. He writes: “As one contemplates all the alternative life forms that might be possible with XNAs and other more exotic genetic molecules, the words of Arthur C Clarke come to mind. In 2010: Odyssey Two, HAL the computer tells humanity, ‘all these worlds are yours’, but warns – ‘except [Jupiter’s moon] Europa, attempt no landings there’. Synthetic biologists are beginning to frolic on the worlds of alternative genetics but must not tread into areas that have the potential to harm our biology.”

ADVERTISEMENT

© Guardian News and Media 2012

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

‘It’s time for decent people to push back against Fox News’ on antifa: columnist

Published

on

President Donald Trump and Fox News are turning American values upside down with their fascist propaganda, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch explained on Tuesday.

"It seems like if you were truly sincere about the whole 'Make America Great Again' thing — that is, if it weren’t just a campaign slogan that jibes with your xenophobic branding and can move tens of thousands of red hats at $25 a pop — then one might actually want to celebrate America’s first victory against fascism," Bunch wrote.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

‘This is how he gets us killed’: American Jews and allies horrified after Trump blurts out anti-Semitic trope

Published

on

President Donald Trump blurted out another anti-Semitic trope during his brief press availability Tuesday in the Oval Office.

Trump has been having a kind of holy war with Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), two of just three Muslim officials in Congress. When speaking to the press Tuesday, he claimed that Jews have no business supporting Democrats because they're anti-Semitic. But then he took it a step further.

Continue Reading
 

Facebook

After getting caught having sex with former congregants, Franklin Graham’s nephew launches new church based on ‘redemption’

Published

on

Tullian Tchividjian insists that when he had extra-marital affairs with congregants at his former church, they were "consensual" and not an abuse of power. Nevertheless, he's getting a second shot with the upcoming launch of his new church in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, The Christian Post reports.

“I don’t care what role a person has, a consensual relationship between two adults is not abuse. And some of these people will try to make the case that, ‘Well, because you’re in a position of authority, it is abuse,’” Tchividjian, who is the nephew of evangelical figurehead Franklin Graham and the grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham, told the Palm Beach Post this weekend. “And I’ll go, ‘OK I can see how that has been and can be used by people in those positions.’ ... [But] that just was not true for me. I was not abusing my authoritative role to try and find women.”

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image