Every living thing on Earth stores the instructions for life as DNA, using the four genetic bases A, G, C, and T. All except one, that is.
Peter Carr, a biological engineer at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, says it suggests that scientists are only beginning to learn how far life can be redesigned, a concept known as synthetic biology.
Humankind has been disappointed in the quest to find life on Mars or Jupiter. Romesberg’s efforts to lay a genetic cuckoo’s egg inside bacteria started 15 years ago. After creating a candidate pair of new genetic letters, the first step was to add them to a bacterium’s genome and show it could use them to store information. In Romesberg’s words, his creations “Lacked the fortitude of real life.”
Carr says an expanded genetic code could have implications beyond providing a shortcut for programming new properties into proteins.