Scientists create variants of natural DNA
Scientists made serious headway this year in tackling why life is both so darn complicated and so darn simple. Researchers upped life’s genetic complexity by coaxing a strain of the bacterium E. coli into using two synthetic genetic letters in addition to the standard four to build strands of DNA. Another team took a minimalist approach, creating a pared-down version of a yeast chromosome.
“These are big achievements,” says Ross Thyer of the University of Texas at Austin. Future work may produce unforeseen engineering marvels, he says.
The researchers working with E. coli added two new molecular building blocks to the four that make up the rungs in DNA’s double helix. Ordinary DNA building blocks, or bases, pair up to connect DNA&rsquo