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The advancement of the genetic code opens the door to advanced materials


Researchers in Cambridge have equipped the genetic code of bacteria to create a synthetic cell that does not differ in nature by opening up new materials, from plastics to antibiotics.

Knowledge of DNA manipulation and editing underlying all genetic processes has been established, but so far it has not been possible to change the 3 billion-year-old code by which DNA instructs cells to form chains of amino acids that make up the living molecules of life.

“This is a potential revolution in biology,” said Raison Chin, program director for the MRC Molecular Biology Laboratory.

“These bacteria can be transformed into reproducible, programmable plants that produce a wide range of new molecules with new properties that can benefit biotechnology and medicine, including the development of new drugs such as antibiotics.”

The main event published in the magazine Science:, is based on the team 2019 progress which created the general hypothesis E. coli: The gut microbe with all its DNA, known as the genome, is made entirely of laboratory chemicals.

Scientists have now rewritten the genetic code of the new bacterium Syn61, which has changed not only DNA but also the associated cellular machines that turn genes into biochemical products. This created a new organism that grows like this E. coli: but with additional features.

The process involves three biochemical “letters” within DNA: groups A, T, C և G. Each of these “codons” tells the cell to add a specific amino acid to the growing protein chain. From the dawn of life on earth, all creatures store genetic information in this way.

Ason Eason China offers a range of applied technologies, including new drugs և biodegradable plastics © MRC-LMB

Since there are 64 possible codons և only 20 natural amino acids, the genetic code has a lot of redundancy. Scientists at Cambridge exploited this by repositioning some of the codons to produce various building blocks that did not exist in nature, while allowing the cell to make all the proteins it needs for life.

An analogy would be to see the genetic code of nature as a computer keyboard in English, on which certain letters appear more than once. The Cambridge team, in fact, turned duplicate A into the Greek alphabet, the excess into B, the beta, etc., which allows you to type in Greek և English.

Experiments show that designed bacterial cells can combine exotic monomers, the molecular building blocks, into new proteins, other large molecules known as polymers.

“We would like to use these bacteria to detect and build long synthetic polymers that fold into structures that can form new classes of materials,” said Chin, adding that new polymers such as biodegradable plastics would be another use.

Two leading non-Cambridge researchers, Boston College Delilah Jew ելը Abishek Chatterjee, say that technology using “unnatural building materials” will lead to countless new applications. »

One aspect of the technology is that synthetic bacteria are not allowed to become infected with viruses that require natural genetic processes to multiply in host cells.

“If the virus gets into the baskets of bacteria that are used to make certain drugs, it can kill the whole batch,” Chin explained. “Our modified bacterial cells can overcome this problem by being fully resistant to viruses.”

China used the “great commercial potential” of the microbiological engineering process, adding that intellectual property protection negotiations had taken place.



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