Scientists create first living organism that transmits added letters in DNA 'alphabet'

Posted by Eudaimonia 6 years, 11 months ago to Science
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I do not consider myself a neo-luddite.
But, holy crap, is this a bad, bad idea.

Somehow the scientist's assertion of control strikes me as little more than hubris.

Of course, time will tell.
SOURCE URL: http://phys.org/news/2014-05-scientists-transmits-added-letters-dna.html


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  • Posted by $ jlc 6 years, 11 months ago
    This is cool. Experiments with abiogenesis have hinted that it is a bit of a crap shoot that we ended up with the nucleic acids that we did. As a matter of fact, one of the nucleotides originally selected was sufficiently poor a choice for long term storage that it was replaced: RNA (the production nucleic acid, and probably the original one - ie RAM) has Uracil whereas DNA (the storage - ie Hard Drive) has Thymine.

    In RNA replication there are some other nucleotides that can be present in a replicating anti-codon in a natural setting. They can pair with several other nucleotides, I believe.

    Even with a panspermia hypothesis, life on another planet could have different nucleotides incorporated. We may be getting a glimpse of how this could work.

    Jan
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    • Posted by johnpe1 6 years, 11 months ago
      Hi, Jan! is there even a shred of a chance that you could translate this for an engineer? sounds like our genetic signature was kinda flawed, and we may be seeing how there could have been -- or could be -- an alternate signature. which means that we could be re-inventing ourselves. and inventing other things ... ummm, life forms. anything close? -- j
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      • Posted by $ jlc 6 years, 11 months ago
        Sure. While we cannot completely 'connect all the dots' yet, experiments in how life might arise from inorganic material have been illuminating on the 'low end' of the scale. Under conditions that simulate primitive earth, you can get small bubbles to spontaneously form that have a 'membrane' of lipids around the perimeter. The structure of these lipids is very similar to cell membranes in existing cells. The way the membrane is innately constructed on a chemical basis means that small molecules can travel through the membrane but large molecules cannot. Guess what? Nucleotides spontaneously polymerize! So if you have nucleotides (also part of a primal chemical soup) available, they will go into the proto-cell...but if they polymerize there, they will become too big to get back out. Now, spontaneously, we have created a proto-cell with a lipid membrane and nucleic acids in the middle. There are about a dozen nucleic acids that can participate in this process - at some point an RNA molecule formed that actually had an improvement on the energy equilibrium of the proto-cell and it became a success.

        So the 'low end' of abiogenesis has a reasonable framework. Similarly, the 'high end' of abiogenesis (such as the above article and Craig Venter's work) is nicely tied down. Connecting those two points is the current puzzle.

        Is that explanation engineer-OK?

        Jan
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        • Posted by johnpe1 6 years, 11 months ago
          delicious! still looking up words, Jan -- this old dog still loves to learn new ones -- but this is fascinating stuff, and you fine folks who know it are majestic!
          now, if the genie will just stay friendly after leaving the bottle ... WoW!!! -- j
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  • Posted by $ jbrenner 6 years, 11 months ago
    If properly controlled, the idea of encoding DNA to have a third set of base pairs allows for the production of synthetic proteins and a wide variety of genetic manipulation. This could be used to dramatically enhance food production, produce medicines that bacteria would have never seen before, etc. This could be a brilliant idea, but if not controlled, it could be a disastrous idea. I read through the abstract. So far it looks credible.
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    • Posted by teri-amborn 6 years, 11 months ago
      "If not controlled" is certainly the danger.
      If it works well for "good" applications, it's only a matter of time before our government steals the info and uses it for evil.
      How odd that the State Science Institute in Atlas Shrugged is so applicable to this discussion...!
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    • Posted by $ jbrenner 6 years, 11 months ago
      I meant biologically controlled with the appropriate cellular signaling cytokines, not State Science Institute type control. If this went into evil hands, it could be a monumental disaster, but in the hands of those of good will could do quite a bit to better humanity.
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      • Posted by plusaf 6 years, 10 months ago
        The 'good hands/evil hands' bromide can, could have and should be applied to any and all 'inventions' of the past 20-50,000 years, and should all produce the same answer:

        Yep, many inventions and developments have created massive 'good' for humanity along with their inherent downsides.

        Hence, my First Law: "The whole world is a tradeoff."

        Just another example of it. Disagree? :)
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  • Posted by RonC 6 years, 11 months ago
    Years ago, maybe half a lifetime, I set out to read an entire encyclopedia. It was not all that noble an idea, we had started buying a volume each time we went to the grocery. I recalled my parents had done the same for me. I also recalled I had seldom if ever used those books, so this time at least one person in the family will read them, me!

    The human brain is an amazing piece of nature's mystery. Lots of people from Napolean Hill to Zig Ziglar have tried to describe how it works and how to harness this power for ourselves. In my new encyclopedia, I had read about viruses and how they commandeer a cell, change it's reproductive capabilities to make it duplicate the virus, then set cell replication in progress. In a short time every cell in our body will be infected by this virus, be it cold, flu, etc, by a chain reaction of viral infection.

    I had also read of many genetic diseases that are believed to be caused by a missing gene. Then one night, in my dreams, I visioned scientist injecting these missing genes into a common rhino virus (cold), then purposely infecting people, and letting the natural action of the virus infecting every cell in the body place that missing DNA in every deficient cell. It seemed like science fiction to me. Possible, but beyond anything we had ever heard of.

    Fast forward about 20 years and guess what, research scientists were doing exactly that. I am certain it required a lot of knowledge and understanding that I didn't have nor did I want to study to acquire. Still, anything the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Looking over the history of mankind there is no goal we have not reached or are in the process of reaching at this present time. So why should this be any different?
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