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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.
Researchers at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in Cambridge, developed chemical procedures to turn DNA and RNA, the molecular blueprints 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.
Ultimately, the creation of alternatives to DNA could enable scientists to make novel forms of life in the laboratory.
In DNA and RNA, replication is facilitated by molecules called polymerases. Using a crafty genetic engineering technique called compartmentalized self-tagging (or "CST"), Pinheiro's team designed special polymerases that could not only synthesize XNA from a DNA template, but actually copy XNA back into DNA. The result was a genetic system that allowed for the replication and propagation of genetic information.
A simplified analogy reveals the strengths and weaknesses of this novel genetic system: You can think of a DNA strand like a classmate's lecture notes. DNA polymerase is the pen that lets you copy these notes directly to a new sheet of paper. But let's say your friend's notes are written in the "language" of XNA. Ideally, your XNA-based genetic system would have a pen that could copy these notes directly to a new sheet of paper. What Pinheiro's team did was create two distinct classes of writing utensil — one pen that copies your friend's XNA-notes into DNA-notes, and a second pen that converts those DNA notes back into XNA-notes.
Originally posted by BIHOTZ
I found a great article that is pretty straight forward. Interesting subject IMO. This could lead to creating gene therapy that selectively evolves genetic material into a specific form. We could use this discovery to adapt the human body for other planets like mars where the environment is not exactly suited to our physiology.