Scientists from the United Kingdom managed to create artificial life with the help of synthetic DNA. An artificial version of the bug E. coli was made and it has been named Syn 61. According to scientists, the genetic code was majorly redesigned as well. This could help researchers create new materials in the future as well.
This is the biggest genome that was synthesized entirely. Syn 61 has 4 million genetic letters. Several short segments were created first and they were later combined together.
“The bacterial chromosome is so big,” team leader Jason Chin explained, “we needed an approach that would let us see what had gone wrong if there had been any mistakes along the way.” “We have stripped out some of the duplications in the natural code to make it more efficient,” added his colleague Julius Fredens.
Many scientists have called this a major breakthrough and they have congratulated Chin on his success.
“Chin’s success will embolden the rest of us working to make many organisms (industrial microbes, plants, animals, and human cells) resistant to all viruses by this recoding approach,” declared Genetic engineer Prof George Church, from Harvard University, US.
According to Fredens, the new techniques could be used for 200 unnatural building blocks in protein chemistry.
“It’s pretty mind blowing that you can expand the genetic alphabet this way,” Fredens admits. “I think we’re pretty far from realising how much we can do with it, producing things we have never seen before.”
Chin hopes that his discovery will help science move forward. He acknowledged the fact that some people might be skeptical, but he believes that there is no reason to worry.
“People have legitimate concerns,” Chin admitted. “There is a dual use to anything we invent. But what’s important is that we have a debate about what we should and shouldn’t do. And that these experiments are done in a well controlled way.”