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Scientists Hack Into Genetic Code Of E. Coli Bacteria To Modify It

DNA render

Genetic engineers have invented a way to hack into the structure of living bacteria and thoroughly rewrite the genome. It’s the first time a genome has been altered on such a big scale.

It is said that this innovative technique could eventually be used to create proteins that don’t exist in nature, a process that could be used to prevent viruses from attacking cells.

The group of researchers, led by Dr. Farren J. Isaacs  and Dr. George M. Church, replaced one three-letter sequence, known in the science world as a codon, in the e. coli bacteria with another.

It is expected that eventually codons could be replaced with new codons that are not one of the 20 originally found in nature. This could create genomes that are different from anything found in a natural life form, giving scientists the ability to create entirely new organisms.

It is said that these genetically engineered organisms could not mix with other organisms if released into the wild, and they could prevent bacterial cells from becoming infected with viruses, which attack by incorporating themselves into a cell’s DNA. Bacteria cells, such as insulin, are often infected by viruses.

This is another step in scientists’ ability to genetically alter the basic fundamentals of life and how it develops. It has been shown that a genome can be radically changed, not just copied. It proves that genetic code can be taken control of and reprogrammed. Genetic engineers have become experts at changing one gene in a genome, but it’s becoming possible to alter multiple sites in a genome simultaneously.

This opens up the possibility of completely rewriting genetic code.

via The New York Times and NewScientist
Image CC licensed by ynse: DNA rendering

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