In an article written by Roni Dengler, “Scientists Have Created Four New Letters of Artificial DNA”, he discusses the creation of four new letters of artificial DNA. These new letters were constructed by Steven Benner and his team. It is monumental to think that DNA holds the building blocks for life, and this alphabet is now doubled. Benner was able to accomplish the feat by using basic chemistry. It was simply a matter of making sure they were the right shape, substance, and able to make the necessary connections regular base pairs can.
I found this article particularly interesting based on a discussion I had last year in Cells and Molecules. Our professor mentioned how it was not a matter of memorizing the base pairs, but more so understanding how they work. He said it did not have to be A, T, C, G, but it just had to be able to perform the chemistry with other pairs. This is the entire explanation to how uracil takes the place of thymine in RNA.
Figure 1: Above conveys how base pairing is just the use of chemistry through hydrogen bonding. As long as the chemistry can happen, the base pair letter does not matter.
Going back to the recent discovery, the new DNA already meets four out of the five requirements for life. Unfortunately, it needs to be able to be self sustaining to meet the fifth. However, there seems to be progress with the base pairs outside of the test tube already.
A newer article, “Scientists Created Bacteria With a Synthetic Genome. Is This Artificial Life?”, by Carl Zimmer says scientists have created life from scratch. Using synthetic DNA, they have been successful in making a colony of E. Coli. We are actually able to use the DNA that we make. The article goes on to discuss the implications of such a discovery. Now, the world of science could potentially be able to create as Carl Zimmer writes, “living factories”. These could make important molecules or even medicine.
Overall, it is quite miraculous that scientists were able to construct versions of the very things that construct ourselves. The article ends on the point that with this new discovery, we might have further insight into life outside of our planet. If it was possible to create a different genetic code, there could very well be life out there without the alphabet of A, T, C, and G.