A team of American scientists created a semi-synthetic organism with an expanded genetic alphabet. Old, natural DNA consists of two distinct base pairs, A-T and G-C. The letters refer to specific sub-units within a pair adenine (A) binds to thymine (T) and cytosine (C) binds to guanine (G) to create the well known double helix.

By adding supplementary sub-units, researchers have been able to create synthetic sub-units to expand the genetic alphabet for a certain amount of time. These artificial base pairs, unable to copy frequently and without fault on their own, are being used to detect viruses.

The unnatural (or next natural, as we prefer) base pair created by the team mentioned above, has been introduced in E. Coli. The created bacterium is the first to propagate stably and reproduce this new and foreign DNA sequence.

The toolbox for synthetic biology is expanding. With the advent of new life forms, structurally different from all that came before, even more so.

Find more on: The Independent

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