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The DNA of life on Earth naturally stores its information in just four key chemicals — guanine, cytosine, adenine and thymine, commonly referred to as G, C, A and T, respectively.
Now scientists have doubled this number of life’s building blocks, creating for the first time a synthetic, eight-letter genetic language that seems to store and transcribe information just like natural DNA.
For a long time, scientists have tried to add more pairs of these chemicals, also known as bases, to this genetic code. For example, Benner first created ‘unnatural’ bases in the 1980s. Other groups have followed, with Romesberg’s lab making headlines in 2014 after inserting a pair of unnatural bases into a living cell.
But the latest study is the first to systematically demonstrate that the complementary unnatural bases recognise and bind to each other, and that the double helix that they form holds its structure.
The letters of DNA pair up because they form hydrogen bonds: each contains hydrogen atoms, which are attracted to nitrogen or oxygen atoms in their partner. Benner explains that it’s a bit like Lego bricks that snap together when the holes and prongs line up.
By adjusting these holes and prongs, the team has come up with several new pairs of bases, including a pair named S and B, and another called P and Z.
The researchers then conducted a series of experiments that showed that their synthetic sequences shares properties with natural DNA that are essential for supporting life.
creating something that could potentially wipe us or all life on earth exists too.
originally posted by: micpsi
It's NOT a eight-letter genetic code. It's still a four-letter code, but synthetic. It would only be the former if the four new bases hydrogen-bonded with the four natural ones, A, G, C & T. As far as I can see from the synopsis of the research, this has not been demonstrated to occur. There are still only 64 of the corresponding protein-coding codons. it is just that there are 64 new ones. An alternative four-letter genetic code that has been partially demonstrated to be viable does not means that life is based upon an eight-letter code.
By adjusting these holes and prongs, the team has come up with several new pairs of bases, including a pair named S and B, and another called P and Z2. In the latest paper, they describe how they combine these four synthetic bases with the natural ones. The researchers call the resulting eight-letter language ‘hachimoji’ after the Japanese words for ‘eight’ and ‘letter’.