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Finding new ways to spell L-I-F-E

XNA molecules join DNA and RNA in the genetic catalog

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8:05pm, December 13, 2012

2012 SCIENCE NEWS TOP 25: 11

Life’s menagerie of hereditary molecules got a little bigger this year. By replacing the sugars in the backbone of a DNA strand with other molecules, scientists created ANA, TNA, HNA, FANA, CeNA and LNA (SN: 5/19/12, p. 10). Each of these synthetic genetic molecules, collectively known as XNAs (xenonucleic acids), also got its own designer enzymes that allow the molecule to be “read” and then replicated, an advance that could help shed light on how life on Earth got its start.

XNAs can make new generations of themselves, though they need an assist from good old DNA. By selecting for a particular trait, such as the ability to attach to another molecule, researchers also coaxed the XNAs to change ov

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