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US scientists take step toward creating artificial life

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In a major step toward creating artificial life, U.S. researchers have developed a living organism that incorporates both natural and artificial DNA and is capable of creating entirely new, synthetic proteins.

The work, published in the journal Nature, brings scientists closer to the development of designer proteins made to order in a laboratory.

Previous work by Floyd Romesberg, a chemical biologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, showed that it was possible to expand the genetic alphabet of natural DNA beyond its current four letters: adenine(A), cytosine(C), guanine (G) and thymine(T).

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In 2014, Romesberg and colleagues created a strain of E. coli bacteria that contained two unnatural letters, X and Y.

In the latest work, Romesberg’s team has shown that this partially synthetic form of E. coli can take instructions from this hybrid genetic alphabet to make new proteins.

“This is the first time ever a cell has translated a protein using something other than G, C, A or T,” Romesberg said.

Although the actual changes to the organism were small, the feat is significant, he said in a telephone interview. “It’s the first change to life ever made.”

It’s a goal Romesberg has been working toward for the past 20 years. Creating new forms of life, however, is not the main point. Romesberg is interested in using this expanded genetic alphabet to create new types of proteins that can be used to treat disease.

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In 2014, he formed a company called Synthorx Inc, which is working on developing new protein-based treatments.

“A lot of proteins that you want to use as drugs get cleared in the kidney very quickly,” Romesberg said. The new system would allow scientists to attach fat molecules to drugs to keep them in the body longer.

Romesberg is aware that the creation of semi-synthetic organisms might raise concerns of hybrid life forms spreading beyond the lab, but the system they used makes such an escape unlikely.

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For example, in natural DNA, base pairs are attracted to each other through the bonding of hydrogen atoms. Romesberg’s X and Y bases are attracted through an entirely different process, which prevents them from accidentally bonding with natural bases.

And because cells cannot make their own X and Y without the addition of certain chemicals, the semi-synthetic organisms cannot live outside of a laboratory.

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“They can’t escape,” Romesberg said. “There’s no ‘Jurassic Park’ scenario.”

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Watch Anderson Cooper use the long-form of ‘BS’ while shutting down Rod Blagojevich on CNN

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MSNBC anchor Anderson Cooper was visibly angered by claims made by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich during a Friday evening CNN interview.

Blogojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for corruption while in office that included attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacancy created when Barack Obama was elected president. His sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump.

Cooper lectured Blogojevich for getting sued while governor over a backlog of 3,000 clemency cases.

The CNN anchor described it as "a little ironic and frankly a little sad and pathetic and hypocritical."

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Judge rules against Devin Nunes in $9.9 million lawsuit over the salacious Steele Dossier

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Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) suffered a legal setback after losing a major lawsuit he had filed.

"A federal judge has tossed out a racketeering lawsuit House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes filed last year against the private investigation firm at the heart of the Trump-Russia saga," Politico reported Friday evening.

"Alexandria, Virginia-based U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady's two-page order made short work of Nunes' suit, which sought $9.9 million in damages from Fusion GPS, its founder Glenn Simpson and a nonprofit watchdog group, Campaign for Accountability," Politico explained. "The judge also signaled that pressing on with the legal battle could result in sanctions against Nunes and his attorney, Steven Biss."

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2020 Election

Devin Nunes is livid at report he helped Trump’s White House: ‘Who the hell is leaking this?’

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The ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee is suing Washington, DC's hometown newspaper.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced that he was suing The Washington Post during a Friday appearance on Fox News.

“A senior U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers last week that Russia wants to see President Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments,” The Washington Post reported Thursday. “Trump learned about Pierson’s remarks from Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the committee’s ranking Republican and a staunch Trump ally, said one person familiar with the matter.”

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