Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute have successfully engineered an organism with alien DNA — that is, DNA with bases that do not exist anywhere on Earth… yet.
In the genes of every organism, DNA, in the form of a double helix, is bonded together with four bases, adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G). However, Scripps scientists have created new bases known as d5SICS (X) and dNaM (Y).
They inserted these bases into the DNA of an e. coli bacteria through the cell membrane. Past studies have indicated that the X and Y bases work with the enzymes that split and copy DNA. Then scientists inserted a DNA plasmid (or a loop of DNA) with the bases X and Y. The bacteria then proceeded to reproduce, duplicating the new bases and therefore the “alien” DNA.
As of now, the X and Y bases don’t really serve that much of a purpose. However, scientists Floyd Romesberg remains optimistic about the possible opportunities these bases could pose.
“If you read a book that was written with four letters, you’re not going to be able to tell interesting stories. If you’ve given more letters, you can invent new words, you can find new ways to use those works and you can probably tell more interesting stories.”
The possibilities for this alien DNA could be endless. Perhaps the DNA could produce amino acids or create proteins that could target cancer cells. It may even be possible that a whole new organism could be created altogether. Pretty neat, don’t you think?