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First time ever: Researchers rewrite an entire bacterial genome and add a healthy twist

First time ever: Researchers rewrite an entire bacterial genome and add a healthy twist | Chasing the Future | Scoop.it

Scientists from Yale and Harvard have recoded the entire genome of an organism and improved a bacterium’s ability to resist viruses, a dramatic demonstration of the potential of rewriting an organism’s genetic code.

“This is the first time the genetic code has been fundamentally changed,” said Farren Isaacs, assistant professor of molecular, cellular, and developmental biology at Yale and co-senior author of the research published Oct. 18 in the journal Science. “Creating an organism with a new genetic code has allowed us to expand the scope of biological function in a number of powerful ways.”

 

The creation of a genomically recoded organism raises the possibility that researchers might be able to retool nature and create potent new forms of proteins to accomplish a myriad purposes — from combating disease to generating new classes of materials.

 

The research — headed by Isaacs and co-author George Church of Harvard Medical School — is a product of years of studies in the emerging field of synthetic biology, which seeks to re-design natural biological systems for useful purposes.

 

In this case, the researchers changed fundamental rules of biology.

Proteins, which are encoded by DNA’s instructional manual and are made up of 20 amino acids, carry out many important functional roles in the cell. Amino acids are encoded by the full set of 64 triplet combinations of the four nucleic acids that comprise the backbone of DNA. These triplets (sets of three nucleotides) are called codons and are the genetic alphabet of life.

 

Isaacs, Jesse Rinehart of Yale, and the Harvard researchers explored whether they could expand upon nature’s handywork by substituting different codons or letters throughout the genome and then reintroducing entirely new letters to create amino acids not found in nature. This work marks the first time that the genetic code has been completely changed across an organism’s genome.

 

In the new study, the researchers working with E. coli swapped a codon and eliminated its natural stop sign that terminates protein production. The new genome enabled the bacteria to resist viral infection by limiting production of natural proteins used by viruses to infect cells. Isaacs — working with Marc Lajoie of Harvard, Alexis Rovner of Yale, and colleagues — then converted the “stop” codon into one that encodes new amino acids and inserted it into the genome in a plug-and-play fashion. 

 

The work now sets the stage to convert the recoded bacterium into a living foundry, capable of biomanufacturing new classes of  “exotic” proteins and polymers. These new molecules could lay the foundation for a new generation of materials, nanostructures, therapeutics, and drug delivery vehicles, Isaacs said.

 

“Since the genetic code is universal, it raises the prospect of recoding genomes of other organisms,” Isaacs said. “This has tremendous implications in the biotechnology industry and could open entirely new avenues of research and applications.”


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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odysseas spyroglou's curator insight, October 19, 2013 8:46 AM

The brave new world starts here. I hope we'll find our way to a less dystopian future.

Dmitry Alexeev's curator insight, October 20, 2013 4:18 AM

thats a new generation biological tool although there has been already attempts to encode non-standard amino acids - but never before on a full genome scale - intrestingle how soon wilkl this be available as a conventional instrument? this is a novel scientific tool - which will among others help us to study life

Leire Tapia's curator insight, October 21, 2013 4:08 PM

He elegido esta noticia porque la relaciono con la libertad de investigación. Es un derecho vinculado al ser humano y es un derecho exigible. Es también importante comunicar los resultados y no caer en el peligro de la censura. No hay que esconder lo que la ciencia descubre pero si es importante establecer límites relacionados con la protección de la salud y con la dignidad humana.

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Chasing the Future
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Russell R. Roberts, Jr.'s curator insight, April 4, 7:09 PM

I greeted this outstanding video from http://www.technology-in-business.net with a mixture of awe and concern.  Awe because of the intellect and technology needed to create these Bionic "men"and the robotic band.  And concern because we may have invented our replacements on planet Earth.  Once these miraculous machines become sentient through Artificial  Intelligence (AI), all bets are off.  Then, who becomes the slave and the master?  This concern runs through the novels of Isaac Asimov ("I Robot") to the pulp fiction movie classics under the "Terminator" logo.  Perhaps I'm being a little over cautious, but I don't fully trust emotionless machines made in our image.  Be careful for what you wish for; you may get it.  Aloha, Russ.

Affordable Same Day service's curator insight, April 9, 1:25 PM

My future helper

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Allen Taylor's curator insight, May 17, 1:31 PM

Northrup Grumman of flying wing fame, plans to propose a robotic craft that could stay aloft in Venus' s atmosphere for up to twelve months, making scientific observations.

David Pressler's curator insight, May 19, 12:29 PM

Inflatables filled with water and a steam engine makes perfect sense for non gravity craft  Water filled bladders become ice to protect the craft.  fuel and drinking water 

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Eco Act (@eco_act on Twitter)'s curator insight, May 17, 6:08 PM

#smartcity #Paris #COP21

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Michael Ravensbergen's curator insight, April 4, 4:03 PM

New era!!

Russell R. Roberts, Jr.'s curator insight, April 4, 6:50 PM

Intriguing video from http://www.technology-in-business.net.  The future is now upon us in a big way.  Here are some of the amazing technologies we will see in our lifetime:

self-cleaning clothes, autonomous robots, drinkable ocean water, App Doctors, Dark Matter, and invisible computers.  This is a fascinating and dangerous age to be alive.  I wouldn't have it any other way.  Aloha, Russ.

Melina Dayana Calizaya Torres's curator insight, April 6, 10:19 PM

OMG

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To some, Stamets’s description of fungi may sound uncomfortably metaphysical. But he’s right that, much like a nervous system, fungal networks have been managing Earth’s ecosystems for eons. And by learning to harness these astounding organisms, we can build ourselves a stronger and more sustainable world.

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