Year in review: Life's complexity recoded | Science News


Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.


Year in review: Life's complexity recoded

Scientists create variants of natural DNA

7:00am, December 15, 2014
yeast cells

RISE UP  Baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, seen under a microscope, ferment fruit and grain into alcohol and make bread rise. Now researchers have taken the first step toward making a synthetic version of the organism that may perform feats regular yeast never could.


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

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More on 2014 Top 25

From the Nature Index Paid Content